By Kristen Baldwin
July 08, 2019 at 11:27 AM EDT
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Bantam Books

The long-gestating Sweet Valley High movie has moved on to its third writer. Paramount has hired Emmy-winning Rick and Morty writer Jessica Gao to pen the script, based on Francine Pascal’s best-selling young adult book series. Gao is taking over the project from Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith (Legally Blonde) and Harper Dill (The Mick) who signed on to write the film in 2017.

Sweet Valley High follows the lives and loves of identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends, who live in the fictional Southern California town of Sweet Valley. Though Jessica and Elizabeth look identical — “the same shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair, the same sparkling blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin,” according to book No. 1, Double Love — their personalities are classic opposites. Elizabeth is sensible, caring, and studious, while Jessica is impulsive, boy-crazy, and occasionally thoughtless. Created by Pascal and produced by a team of ghostwriters, SVH became an instant hit when it premiered in 1983 thanks to its brilliant blend of teen drama (boy trouble! mean girls! school dances!) and soap-opera twists (kidnappings! tragic deaths! evil twins!).

SVH sold more than 150 million copies worldwide and remains a hot property to this day: Sweet Valley Confidential, a sequel written by Pascal, hit the New York Times bestseller list in 2011, and a graphic novel based on the series is due in September. A TV adaptation starring twins Brittany and Cynthia Daniel ran from 1994-1997, and Hollywood has been trying to produce a film version for a decade. Universal was the first studio to put the project into development, hiring Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody to pen the script in 2009; that deal ultimately lapsed.

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