Matarese Circle: Ludlum's Book into a Film

April 3, 2008–In its first major deal made since Mary Parent took over as head of MGM's worldwide motion picture group, the studio beat out Universal and several others for “The Matarese Circle,” a 1979 book by Robert Ludlum, author of the Bourne series.

Denzel Washington is attached to star. Sources placed the book deal in the vicinity of $3 million, with another $2 million for screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, who wrote the remake of “3:10 to Yuma” and the upcoming Universal actioner “Wanted.” Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Nick Wechsler, and Jeffrey Weiner will produce.

Set during the Cold War, the book pairs rival spies, one from the CIA and the other from the KGB, who bury the hatchet for the moment because only they possess the smarts and killing abilities to go up against an international circle of killers called the Matarese.

While numerous studios were circling, the proceedings were controlled by ICM, because the agency repped the Ludlum estate. WMA repped both Washington and the writers. The Ludlum estate has profited handsomely from the trilogy of hit films based on amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne.

Parent was vice chairman at Universal while the Bourne series was put together. Aside from making a splash in a town waiting to be convinced that MGM is real, the studio adds to its list of potential film franchises, which already includes James Bond, “The Hobbit,” “The Pink Panther,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Death Wish,” “Robocop,” “Fame,” and “The Outer Limits.”

The project has a franchise potential. There's a sequel book, “The Matarese Countdown,” which could serve as the template for another picture.

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