There’s a lot of math that goes into making a movie, some parts more simple than others. If you have a director and a star that come together for a novel adaptation, and it makes almost $700 million, you generally want to duplicate that scenario and aim to be as successful as you were before. Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer are trying to do just that, albeit with a more highbrow literary sense. Deadline reports The Hunger Games director Gary Ross is reteaming with Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence for an up-to-date adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The classic 1955 original was directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean, who received the first-ever posthumous Oscar nomination for the role. Ross and Lawrence are also attached to respectively direct and star in an adaptation of Australian author Hannah Kent’s chilling novel Burial Rites. More on the latter in a few.
Grazer and Universal had their hands on East of Eden since 2004, but recently the option lapsed. But they retrieved them with this new deal centered on the Ross and Lawrence tag team. Their version will be told in two films, a nice break from the usual trilogy announcement. Some may complain that a two-film deal is too much, but Steinbeck’s magnum opus is a long and complicated tale that would need to be in the four-hour long range if it were indeed shown as one film.
The tale of two generations has been called a metaphor for the story of Cain and Abel, which the novel itself discusses, and follows the lives of twin sons Caleb and Aron Trask, and their father Adam before them. Their mother Cathy has a terrible personality and left the family shortly after her sons were born, only to come back later in the story when it matters most. This is the role that Lawrence is being eyed for. Cathy also runs a sex den, if that piques anyone’s interests. It’s the role that won Jo Van Fleet a Supporting Actress Academy Award for the original.
With Steven Spielberg recently optioning The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck is making his cinematic comeback. For better or worse.
Published this past summer, Burial Rites tells the mostly true story of farmhand Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to ever be executed in Iceland in 1830. She and her farmer’s son Friðrik Sigurðsson were convicted of murdering two men in 1828. The novel takes place between the murder and the public execution, when she is sent to live with the family of a District Officer that constantly shuns her, and tells of a victimized and powerless woman who makes you wonder if she really did it or not. Lawrence would obviously be playing the lead role, which sounds about as fun as breathing nails. But it sounds like an interesting project.
You’ll have quite a bit of Lawrence to get through before then, though, with the next three Hunger Games sequels coming, along with American Hustle, Serena and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
While it’s not clear whether or not Ross will take a pass at the East of Eden script that was originally written by Paul Attansio, he’s looking to get the project into gear once he’s finished directing the Peter Pan prequel Peter and the Starcatchers.