The Lovely Bones: According to Variety, the struggle to give screen treatment to Alice Sebold's bestselling novel "The Lovely Bones" has taken an intriguing turn.

Lynne Ramsay is out as director, and talks are under way with Peter Jackson and partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens to make The Lovely Bones their follow-up to King Kong.

That news has officially turned a grim story into a hot property at studios.

"Lovely Bones" does not seem like the sort of book that's destined for a film adaptation. It's a heartbreaking tale narrated by a 14-year old girl -- after she has been raped and murdered. From heaven, she observes her shattered family's attempt to heal, as a detective tries to solve the case and as her killer moves along his demented path.

Sudden interest in the book by Jackson and his "Rings" partners Walsh and Boyens is not altogether shocking. They planned to follow the arduous "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy by making an f/x-free film similar in tone to "Heavenly Creatures." They eyed modest projects like "As Nature Made Him," the true story of a New Zealand doctor who believed gender could be assigned and tested the theory by making a girl out of a newborn boy.

They instead took a precedent-setting $20 million against 20% deal to remake "King Kong."

Talks are early and no deal has been made yet. But the prospect of Jackson's participation should have FilmFour's phones ringing. Peyronnet signed a first-look deal last summer at DreamWorks, and speculation was that the studio hoped to corral the book, which Steven Spielberg likes a lot.

Brian B.