Outbidding three other studios, DreamWorks acquires Peter Jackson's adaptation of ''The Lovely Bones'' and expects a late 2008 release

By Nicole Sperling
Updated May 07, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Peter Jackson: Sam / Starface / Retna UK

DreamWorks Studios is the winner of The Lovely Bones. After a heated week-long negotiation, the home of American Beauty will finance the close to $70 million adult drama from writer/director Peter Jackson.

DreamWorks beat out three other studios including Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures, who all bid on the project this week and were required to submit marketing and distribution plans along with their proposals.

It’s not clear if Jackson will get his usual deal, which reaches $20 million and includes a 20-percent take of the total grosses, though one source believes the in-demand director did close on that exact deal. DreamWorks declined comment.

The studio will co-finance the project with British production company Film 4, which originally acquired the project and later developed it with Jackson.

The hot script from Jackson and his writing partners, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, landed on studio executives’ desks Monday. Called ”brilliant” by sources who’ve read it, the screenplay is an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Alice Sebold. The story is told from the perspective of a dead child, a 14-year-old girl who’s been brutally murdered: not the sort of subject matter that typically fuels bidding wars and studio projects expected to cost upwards of $100 million.

Jackson, one of the few directors to not have a deal with a studio, chose to develop Bones outside the studio system because he didn’t want the pressure of the studio dictating how fast he would develop the script.

”He wanted to take as much time as he needed to develop the approach, structure and tone,” said Ken Kamins, Jackson’s manager. ”He didn’t feel they’d be able to do it inside the studio system.”

The film is scheduled to begin production in October in Pennsylvania and New Zealand, though no casting has been announced. While Jackson wanted detailed distributions plans for the project, no release date has been set at this time, though those close to the production expect a year-end 2008 release.

The Lovely Bones

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 136 minutes
  • Peter Jackson