According to Variety, Peter Jackson and partner Fran Walsh have put up their own coin to option film rights to the Alice Sebold novel The Lovely Bones in an unusual development plan that will exclude studio financing until the script is finished.
Rights were acquired from FilmFour, the movie arm of British broadcaster Channel 4, which will still serve as Jackson and Walsh's partner in developing the project.
Project is the follow-up to Jackson's King Kong.
Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens will begin next January adapting the book as a spec script for a movie that likely won't be ready for release until fall 2007.
"We've woken up every single morning for the past six years with people at studios awaiting a script or a cut of a film," Jackson said. "We want time to discover what this film is. Writing on spec, budgeting and getting ourselves organized before we go to studios was preferable to finishing 'Kong' and then facing another deadline 12 weeks later." King Kong opens Dec. 14.
Though "The Lovely Bones" is not on the order of a major fantasy trilogy, Jackson said the book has its own complexities. It was passed on by studios when first shopped; the book opens with the revelation that 14-year old narrator and main character Susie Salmon was raped and murdered. From heaven, she watches how the people left behind handle her tragedy.
Jackson and Walsh, eager to make a small-canvas movie like his early hit Heavenly Creatures, sparked to it immediately.
"It's the best kind of fantasy in that it has a lot to say about the real world," Jackson said. "You have an experience when you read the book that is unlike any other. I don't want the tone or the mood to be different or lost in the film."
The most perplexing problem, said Jackson, is how to convey Susie in heaven.
"It's cleverly not described that well in the book, because Alice wanted your imagination to do the work and decide what Susie's heaven looks and feels like," Jackson said. "We will have to show something on film. It has to be somehow ethereal and emotional, but it can't be hokey."