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Random House unveils films

Random House is producing movie adaptations in a joint venture with a film company.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2006 21:45 IST

Two politically charged stories, one a novel set in Israel and the other a non-fiction investigation about the war in Iraq, are set to be the first movie adaptations from an unprecedented joint venture between a book publisher and a film company.

Random House, the world's largest publisher of general-interest books, and Focus Features, the producer behind the Oscar-nominated literary adaptations of The Constant Gardener and Brokeback Mountain, announced the first two projects from their multi-year deal on Tuesday.

Random House, a unit of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, said last November that it would develop movies with Focus Features, a unit of NBC Universal, the entertainment company owned by General Electric Co. and Vivendi of France.

The co-financing and co-production arrangement is a departure for book publishers, which typically do not align themselves with a single film company despite the regular frustration of selling the rights to books only to see them vanish into the black hole of Hollywood development.

Although Random House is not retaining exclusive film rights for its books under the venture and is still bidding for publishing and movie rights separately, it believes the partnership gives it some advantages.

"We're tending to see things much sooner than others can see them," Peter Gethers, the president of Random House Films, said in an interview with Reuters.

"We have 100 or more editors around the world who are looking for material and they have a bit more confidence about their ability to judge something before it gets validated by someone else, which is how studios usually operate," he added.

The venture's first project is The Attack, which is set to be published in English in May by a Random House imprint. It is a French novel written by Yasmina Khadra, the pseudonym of a former Algerian army officer, about the aftermath of a suicide bombing for an Arab surgeon.

It has sold more than 100,000 copies and is shortlisted for a number of French literary prizes, Random House said.

John Wells, a writer for TV hits "The West Wing" and "ER" and producer of films including "White Oleander" and "Far From Heaven", is slated to produce "The Attack".

The second project, to be based on the forthcoming Curveball by Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Bob Drogin, tracks flaws in U.S. intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq. The book is to be published in fall 2007.

Curveball was the code name for an Iraqi informant who supplied the U.S. government with misleading information about biological weapons, according to Drogin's reporting.

"It's a coincidence that the first two projects are both political, but obviously that's partly our taste even though they are very different stories," Gethers said. "We're looking at a very wide range of materials, from very commercial to very literary."

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 16:44 IST