October 30, 2013

Scott Rudin buys film rights to a book before the book rights are sold


Garth Risk Hallberg, who sold the movie rights to his book before he actually sold the book.

Scott Rudin continues to buy film rights to all of the books, even when they aren’t books yet. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Rudin has bought film rights to the latest literary sensation…before it even found a publisher. City of Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg is a 900 page novel about 1970’s New York, and while publishers are still looking at it, and no deals have been made, Rudin read the manuscript in one night and snatched up the movie rights.

According to Hallberg’s bio on his website, the novel may not even be finished yet:

Garth Risk Hallberg’s stories and essays have appeared in Best New American Voices, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Prairie Schooner, New York Magazine, Glimmer Train, Slate, Canteen, and The Pinch, as well as at The Millions, where he’s a contributing editor. A 2008 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Fiction and a two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s Balakian award for excellence in book reviewing, Garth teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. He’s in the late innings of a novel.

Hallberg is also the author of the well received story collection, A Field Guide to the North American Family. Rudin has famously literary taste, and he’s even been called the world heavyweight champion of literary-minded producers. While he’s often optioned books before their publication, this may be the first time a novel, and a debut at that, has been optioned for film while still in the “late innings” of the writing process.

In 2010, Vulture put together a list of books optioned by Rudin; it’s an impressive list including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Lush Life by Richard Price, On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and more. Just last week, he acquired the rights to Sheri Fink‘s harrowing nonfiction Hurricane Katrina book, Five Days at Memorial. None of these movies have seen the light of day yet, but Rudin does have plenty of adaptations under his belt, including Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incrediby Close, Franzen’s Freedom, and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. The list goes on and on. 

Hallberg’s future book seems to be in good hands with Rudin, but as the above lists show, it’s never a sure thing. This 2008 story by Gabriel Snyder, “Literary Purgatory,” is a good primer on the “long and treacherous journey” many beloved books face going from page to screen.


Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.