‘Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence, Gary Ross To Re-Team On Steinbeck’s ‘East Of Eden’ For Universal And Brian Grazer

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer have closed a deal with the John Steinbeck estate for a new version of his seminal novel East Of Eden that will be developed as a re-team for The Hunger Games director Gary Ross and Jennifer Lawrence.

I’m told that the book is Ross’ favorite American novel and that the director plans to tell the generational story in two films. The novel previously was adapted into one picture, the 1955 Elia Kazan-directed film that starred James Dean and Richard Davalos as sons who compete for the attention of their farmer father in Salinas, CA. Ross wants Lawrence to play Cathy Ames, the cold and cruel mother of the boys and estranged wife of the farmer. The films will tell their stories, leading into the rivalry between their sons.

The studio and Imagine first acquired the 1952 novel back in 2004. This was after Steinbeck’s modern retelling of the Cain and Abel story shot back up the best-seller lists when Oprah Winfrey made it the first selection of the revived book club on her daytime talk show. I’m told that the original option lapsed, but then the studio and Grazer put together a new deal in a competitive situation, this one built around Ross and Lawrence, the latter of whom won the Academy Award in February for Silver Linings Playbook. Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley was very involved, as was Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, Uni’s co-president of production.

This comes just before Ross and Lawrence have their CAA agents shop a vehicle for another re-team, on the Hannah Kent novel Burial Rites. They are teaming with producer Allison Shearmur, who as a Lionsgate exec was a catalyst for the first Hunger Games film. I’m told CAA will next week shop the novel by Kent, who got a seven-figure deal for her first novel and rave reviews when Little, Brown published her tale of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. The drama takes place between the murder and the prosecution of the case against a woman who is victimized and powerless against the forces trying to send her to a public execution. Ross will direct and Lawrence wil play the protagonist in a tale as bleak as her Oscar-nominated breakout turn in Winter’s Bone.

Back to Steinbeck, who is hot stuff. This is the second recent seismic deal for the late author; in July, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg made a deal to mount a new version of the Steinbeck classic The Grapes Of Wrath.

On East Of Eden, Universal, Grazer and Ross are still working out the particulars. When the studio acquired the book the first time, it got a script by Paul Attanasio. It is unclear at the moment if Ross will rewrite it himself or work with a writer. Ross will most certainly have a hand in the writing; he is a four time Oscar-nominee whose book adaptations include Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games. The intention is to get the picture into production after Ross directs Peter And The Starcatchers for Sony and Disney, which is his take on the Peter Pan legend. Lawrence will catch up with Ross and East Of Eden after she completes the final two installments of The Hunger Games series. She will next be seen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the David O Russell-directed American Hustle from Sony.

Anna Culp will be exec producer. Ross is repped by CAA and Alan Wertheimer, Lawrence by CAA and attorneys Gretchen Rush and Steve Warren. The book deal was made by RWSG Agency’s Geoff Sanford, Jill Gillett, with Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh & Otis. Latter represents the Steinbeck estate.

Comments (52)

  • Love that he’s emphasizing the whole book and not just one half like the ’55 film.

    Comment by Jordan M. — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:00pm PDT  
  • Finally, Hollywood does something interesting.

    Comment by Michael — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:02pm PDT  
  • Couldn’t have picked a better team to make one of my favorite books of all time.

    Comment by Charlie — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:05pm PDT  
  • Loved Seabiscuit and Hunger Games. I’ll trust his record with adaptations.

    Comment by Shannon — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:08pm PDT  
  • Really hope they aren’t afraid to make a 3 hour epic — this is a brilliant story and really needs to be told full length.

    Comment by Big fan — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:21pm PDT  
  • The whole book was a TV miniseries and Jane Seymore won an Emmy. Do we need this?

    Comment by Remember — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:30pm PDT  
    • I remember Jane Seymour too, she was an excellent Cathy. That was a good mini series.

      Comment by js — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:00pm PDT  
    • No.

      Comment by megandraper — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:05pm PDT  
      • +1

        Comment by iReadComments — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 11:22am PDT  
  • So honestly how much longer are we as a society going to be subjected to her acting? Sadly her only real competition is Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman so my guess is four more years. Sadly I’ve only paid for two of her movies and I wish I had my money and time back.

    Comment by cali_terp@yahoo.com — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 4:44pm PDT  
    • I love Lawrence and think she’s supremely talented, so I hope she’ll be around long enough to make you choke on your own bile.

      Comment by Mr. Salty — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:11pm PDT  
    • Well said, cali.

      And Mr Salty, you were tossed from shelves years ago…

      Comment by Bookids — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:58pm PDT  
    • Yes , Cali, I have to agree . Jennifer Lawrence is an untrained actress with little depth and no nuance – that got very lucky in Hollyweird . Plus , her distractingly wooden line deliveries are hilarious . I still don’t understand her Oscar win ( and her Oscar nomination ) ? Winning the Oscar too early in the game with her mediocre talent , will hurt her in the long run . Bless her heart .

      Comment by Needed A Laugh — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 6:48pm PDT  
      • @Need a Laugh-You make the same laughable comment on every Lawrence article. Loser.

        Comment by astro — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 8:16pm PDT  
        • @astro . I don’t write the same laughable comment on every Lawrence article , but I do know talent when I see it . Sorry , but Jennifer doesn’t have it , and she plays herself in all her movies ( I also add Julia Roberts , Mila Kunis and Emma Stone to her category ) . I guess you read every comment board concerning Lawrence, so you can defend her honor .

          Comment by Needed A Laugh — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 9:09pm PDT  
          • you sound pretty judgmental and arrogant
            you seem to think you are the only who knows what talent is, how come exactly? do you work in the movie industry? have you ever been on a movie set? *rolls eyes*
            so, the very experienced people who work in the movie industry like actors,producers, directors etc don’t know what talent is but you, an internet user think it knows what good acting is? lol
            that is laughable! stay pressed i guess!

            Comment by angie — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 9:29am PDT  
      • The Academy Awards have become a cheap joke, as further evidenced by one having been given to Jennifer Lawrence for that hacky screechy mess of a performance. Why must they defile John Steinbeck. It’s all so incompetent and boring.

        Comment by Laughed2 — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 8:48pm PDT  
        • Jennifer Lawrence won an OSCAR !
          Seriously , quit whining about it and get over it, repeating it over and over will not change a thing, stop watching her movies whatever you think there are tons of better actresses out there then, be my guest and go watch their movies.*rolls eyes* JMO.

          Comment by angie — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 9:35am PDT  
    • “Winter’s Bone” was a great movie and Jen Lawrence was excellent in it. I haven’t seen her in anything else (I’m too old for “Hunger Games”) but I think she’s a very good actress so your comment puzzles me a little. But, you know, opinions are like . . ., etc.

      Comment by mslewis — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 6:49pm PDT  
    • i hope you are going to be subjected to her ‘horrible’ acting for a long time, as she will be everywhere for the Hunger Games franchise lol
      honestly, if you think she is not a good enough actress for your taste even though she is for a lot of other people, why are you even reading articles about her acting career, you want to waste your time searching for an actress that you strongly dislike? *rolls eyes*

      Comment by angie — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 7:49pm PDT  
    • Poor, jealous hater.

      Comment by astro — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 8:14pm PDT  
    • Could not agree more. She is not nearly as good as she is made out to be.

      Comment by desi — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 1:16am PDT  
    • By “competition”, do you mean they are the only actresses as bad as Jennifer Lawrence? I hope so.

      Comment by CynicalCritic — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 9:16am PDT  
  • Kristen Stewart wanted a role in this. Certainly not Cathy. I wonder if she could get hired?

    Comment by bellaskris — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:03pm PDT  
  • So they are re-teaming twice??? i love how directors want to work with her again and again but she could really use some diversity. If every major director want to work with her she should try it. Gary Ross and Susan Biers are good director but not the best. There will always be opportunities to work with them again in the future.

    Comment by Gise — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:52pm PDT  
    • She may not be able to achieve diversity, as those other directors may not want to work with her. They may not see the acting range – or lack thereof – that Gary Ross seems to find in her.

      Comment by CynicalCritic — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 9:21am PDT  
  • As mentioned earlier, the tv mini-series featured career-best work for Jane Seymour. If you’ve never seen it, give it a try sometime.

    Comment by Batjag — Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 5:59pm PDT  
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