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''The Hitchhiker's'' long journey to film

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In the three years after it whooshed in as a radio serial in 1978, Douglas Adams’ wry sci-fi epic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy spawned a book (and later four sequels) and a BBC miniseries. So why did the feature film languish in development for 25 years? Blame intergalactic karma. Adams, who died at age 49 in 2001, actually sold the film rights on three occasions, only to watch each deal expire. Among the suitors: director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), who deemed the project too quirky in 1983; and, some 15 years later, Disney, which had helmer Jay Roach (Austin Powers) attached but balked at the $80 million budget. It was filmmaker Garth Jennings who finally got it a thumbs-up in 2003 (though he nixed Adams’ choice of Hugh Grant, below, for the nebbishy lead). With its No. 1 debut last week, too bad Adams isn’t around for the last laugh.