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The books: 'Beautiful Boy' by David Sheff (Houghton Mifflin) 'Tweak' by Nic Sheff (Ginee Seo Books) -- The buyer: Paramount Pictures, on behalf of Plan B Entertainment

June 19, 2008|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

The deal

Paramount Pictures, on behalf of Plan B Entertainment (Brad Pitt's production company), options "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction" by David Sheff and "Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines" by his son, Nic Sheff, about their family's struggle with the boy's addiction. The two books would be made into one movie.

The players

Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner are producing, in association with Starbucks. David Sheff is represented on literary rights by Amanda Urban at International Creative Management. Father and son are represented on film rights by Ron Bernstein at ICM.

The back story

Some book-to-film deals can be incredibly complex, given all the players involved. But when an already intricate deal focuses on a father's and son's bestselling memoirs about drug addiction, even the most veteran agent proceeds cautiously. "Memoirs are always complicated because these are people's lives you're talking about," Bernstein said. "I had to be certain that producers would be sensitive to the real people here." Bernstein approached Plan B before anyone else because he had been impressed by its adaptation of another painful memoir, "A Mighty Heart" by Mariane Pearl, whose journalist husband, Daniel, was murdered by terrorists.

Kleiner sensed the cinematic potential of the Sheffs' books; he also saw the challenges. "This is not the kind of story you jump into and say, 'We're doing this,' " he said. "I met with David and Nic, and we had the same sense of the story: You want a level of universality. It's not just about their trauma. It's about the ethics of life inside a family, the kind of boundless commitment that family members make to each other as they struggle to survive."

For David Sheff, the decision to sell film rights was difficult and almost didn't happen. (Starbucks got involved when it agreed to sell "Beautiful Boy" in its stores.) "In a book, you can weigh every word," Sheff said. "In a movie, it's collaborative, and you trust people with a story that means everything to you. I trust Jeremy because he gets it, and I feel now that's as good as you can get in this world."

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josh.getlin@latimes.com

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