Universal Makes Seven-Figure Deal For ‘The School For Good And Evil’

EXCLUSIVE: Boy, does Joe Roth have the hot hand when it comes to irreverent fairy tale fare. Deadline revealed last Thursday that the Oz The Great And Powerful producer had partnered with Jane Startz Production to acquire movie rights to The School For Good And Evil. After a spirited auction, Universal Pictures won the property in a seven-figure deal for book and scriptwriting fees. It’s the first title in a novel trilogy by Soman Chainani that will be published in the U.S. by HarperCollins on May 14 and in the U.K. on June 6. The trilogy tells the story of ordinary boys and girls who are kidnapped from their homes and sent to The School for Good and Evil, where they are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains, princesses and witches.

The protagonist is Sophie, a beauty who is dumped into the School for Evil while her homely best friend Agatha is taken to the School for Good. Both girls find their fortunes reversed and are forced to confront the truth about their unexpected destinies. The book debuted this weekend #7 on The New York Times Bestseller list.

Universal is an easy fit for Roth and his top exec Palak Patel, both of whom will produce with Startz. Roth and Patel produced Snow White And The Huntsman at Universal, and have a sequel in the works. They are also working with the studio on Daughter Of Smoke & Bone, an adaptation of Laini Taylor’s novel that also has franchise potential. Chainani and Hook scribe Malia Scotch Marmo are attached to write the screenplay, which is interesting in that they met when Scotch Marmo was Chainani’s college professor. CAA reps the author (who’s repped in the UK by Sayle Screen), and CAA also reps Roth along with attorneys Harry Brittenham and Sam Fischer. Starz is repped by attorney Maggie Pisacane.

Comments (19)

  • Wait so because Sophie is beautiful it’s assumed she’s good? And because Agatha is ugly it’s assumed she’s evil? If that’s the case then right from the start this is cliched and stereotyped. I hope it’s not that simplistic but it sounds like it, if the beautiful girls are supposed to be sent to the good school and the ugly girls are supposed to be sent to the evil school then it’s perpetuating stupid stereotypes aimed at kids.

    Comment by Anonymous — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 12:13pm PDT  
    • Yeah, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. It’s EXACTLY as simplistic as you can imagine.

      Comment by CJ — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 12:27pm PDT  
    • You learn in the beginning of the books that Sophie is beautiful, kind, sweet, obsessed with princes and the color pink. So she seems like a natural fit for the good side of the school. When you first meet Agatha, she lives in a graveyard, wears shabby black clothes, has low self esteem, is rather ugly, and has an evil cat. Wouldn’t she be perfect for evil? Don’t stereotype if you haven’t even read the book. It’s not a simplistic book, there is tons of depth, so much that you have no clue what will happen next. The author wrote it beautifully, and hopefully it will make an outstanding movie.

      Comment by Bly — Wednesday July 24, 2013 @ 3:20pm PDT  
    • Have you read the book? I read it twice to make sure I didn’t miss any details and it definitely is NOT cliched!

      Comment by Anna — Sunday August 4, 2013 @ 8:58pm PDT  
  • Try reading the book before making inane comments about whether a book stereotypes or not. I read the book and it artfully delivers the exact opposite of expected stereotypes – it constantly confounds the reader’s expectations and muddles the distinctions between good/evil/ugly/beautiful in an amazing way. Seriously – next time do your research before leaving comments.

    Comment by Erin — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 12:31pm PDT  
  • @Anonymous – Falling into the Hollywood stereotype of judging a book before reading it. The book is much more sophisticated than what it seems, and the reviews have justly raved about it. Great move by Uni.

    Comment by Bank — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 12:39pm PDT  
  • So proud of our friend and colleague Jane Startz. She has has a clear vision from this from the beginning. Bring it on.

    Comment by Susan Miller — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 1:06pm PDT  
  • Anonymous – I am a working mom who has read the book myself. It turns the concept of beauty on its head. For my money, if I had to give one of the young women the nod as protagonist, it is Agatha. But the lines of good and evil intersect more than once and Sophie has her day in the sun. Any mom would want to read this book to her daughter AND her son. Talk about a vehicle for dialogue with a middle schooler.

    Comment by Tracey — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 1:55pm PDT  
  • My 8-yo son saw the presentation of this at the Asian film Fest in SF and he pronounced it boring.

    Comment by IgnatiusJKReilly — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 6:04pm PDT  
  • Congrats to Jane Startz and her super smart exec Kane Lee. They both work so hard and have great taste. Good for them!

    Comment by jane fan — Thursday May 23, 2013 @ 6:18pm PDT  
  • It seems one should not only read the book before judging it and even better read the synopsis carefully. It clearly states Sophie, the beautiful one goes to the evil school and Agatha to the good side. I also think it a poor idea to take an 8 year old’s assessment of a movie as valid. Frequently this age group misses the adult humor and also more the more sublime plot components. As for me, I think I will wait and see the movie myself… Better yett I will read the book first !!

    Comment by Teacher — Friday May 24, 2013 @ 9:15pm PDT  
  • I just finished the book today and let me tell you this book is not even close to being boring. It sometimes left me with my jaw dropped. Of course I kinda knew from the get go that Sophie was gonna get plumped in the school of evil wen I read the first chapter even she’s beautiful she’s vain and egoistic while agatha may be ugly but cares for others instead of herself. I wish I can spoil everything but I’m not going to. So if this book was a huge hit I’m also hoping universal delivers the same hit.

    Comment by Ella — Thursday June 13, 2013 @ 9:24pm PDT  
  • This is the best book ever!! Let’s just hope that they keep it how it is when they make the movie and don’t do to it what they did to the Percy Jackson book/movie combo: change the story, change the plot, (and thus) change the reviews. I’m not criticizing anything, I’m just saying that I hope they keep it the same. Oh, and for those people who listen to eight-year-olds that don’t pay attention, judge a book before even looking at the cover let alone reading it, and mix the antagonist and protagonist when reporting for something actually PUBLISHED online and read by millions of people: read the book. Then you’ll eat your words.

    Comment by Vanilla — Friday July 19, 2013 @ 6:10pm PDT  
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