By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 20, 2010 at 2:27AM
One producer pal is shopping a commercial adventure that happens to be an original script. And nobody's biting, because these days Hollywood is terrified of the original screenplay. Even though Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time, at this point you have to be James Cameron or Steven Spielberg to greenlight an original--unless it's a low-budget comedy. That's the last refuge of the original idea, because laughs always sell.
So how does Hollywood get around this problem? They steal titles or stick a familiar name on something. My pal is trying to find a recognizable song or name that will capture the flavor of his project. The Bourne and the later Jack Ryan movies bear little resemblance to their Robert Ludlam or Tom Clancy novels. And producers have been turning to movie titles based on non-fiction books, from He's Not that Into You and Mean Girls to the in-the-works What to Expect When You're Expecting, the diet book French Women Don't Get Fat and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. (Meanwhile, the studios are not buying as many books as they used to, reports ICM's Ron Bernstein.)
Summit Entertainment just announced that it has bought worldwide film and TV rights to John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women are from Venus franchise, consisting of more than a dozen books. The project will be produced by Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun of BermanBraun. What they care about is a recognizable brand they can market:
The Mars-Venus series has sold over 50 million books in 45 territories worldwide. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is the #1 bestselling book of the last decade and the #1 relationship book of all time. It was on The New York Times Bestseller List for nearly seven years and is #6 on USA Today's list of the 25 Most Influential Books. In addition to his publishing success, Dr. Gray’s video/DVD lecture series has earned over $100 million.
Explaining the purchase, Summit production chief Erik Feig stated that this title is:
...a pop cultural mainstay and comically, sadly, romantically, all too often still true these many years after first being published. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work on a franchise whose name everyone knows and whose reality everyone lives!”
For their part, Berman and Braun stated that the books form:
“...the most enduring relationship franchise in the world and the Rosetta Stone for understanding the opposite sex. While men and women may never truly speak the same language, we’re thrilled to explore their perpetually hilarious, painful and romantic conflicts on the big screen.”
Now they'll be scouring for stories and screenwriters that can conjur something that somehow fits the title--and will set up a franchise.