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At The Movies | Book It

October 18, 2007|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

The book

"Lost & Found" by Jacqueline Sheehan

The buyer

Katherine Heigl

The deal

"Grey's Anatomy" and "Knocked Up" star Katherine Heigl options film rights to "Lost & Found" by Jacqueline Sheehan, a novel about a psychologist reeling from her husband's death who moves to Maine, where she finds friendship -- and emotional strength -- through her relationship with a Labrador retriever.

The players

Heigl inks an option deal with a six-figure purchase price for her new production company, in tandem with her mother, Nancy, her producing partner and manager, represented by Paradigm; Sarah Self at the Gersh Agency and Jenny Bent at Trident Media Group represent Sheehan, whose book was published by Avon A, an imprint of HarperCollins.

The back story

Heigl, basking in the glow of her Emmy for "Grey's Anatomy" and her star turn in "Knocked Up," is jumping into the hot book-to-film market. She snapped up rights to Sheehan's novel, which has 120,000 copies in print, because "it's a sensitive and honest portrayal of loss and the journey toward healing and starting over," showing "the profound bond that exists between humans and animals," her mom said.

On the surface, the deal is just one of many film options taken out on books every month. But to those who brokered it, Heigl's push to seek out the film rights on her own illustrates a growing trend among young Hollywood stars, who are proactively snaring the rights to promising literary material. "Lost & Found" is the second novel by Sheehan, a psychologist and essayist.

"This is a trend that is definitely booming," said Self, who is based in New York. "It was refreshing and it shows that she [Heigl] is thinking about the long term, and is serious not only about acting, which she does well, but producing. I've seen it happen more and more, and stars realize that if they just sit back and react to what is thrown at them, they'll miss out on material they can control."

There is no word yet on whether Heigl -- who is shooting "27 Dresses" for Fox 2000, and has another as-yet-unnamed project in the works at the same studio -- would play the starring role in "Lost & Found." The main character in the novel, Rocky Pelligrino, "is a really strong role for a woman . . . it's a dramedy where the focus is on her and her relationship with this wonderful Labrador retriever," Self says.

Either way, the movie -- like the book -- could tap into a built-in audience of people "who are dealing with their own grief and tragedy, and have been transformed by their experiences with animals," says Bent. "This is a very compelling theme."

josh.getlin@latimes.com

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