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Hollywood's latest trip to 'Mars' lands on planet nonfiction

April 19, 2010 |  1:43 pm

The latest development craze for fiction films is...nonfiction bestsellers?

Summit announced today that it has acquired and would develop John Gray's gender-gap bible "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," with Hollywood mainstays Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun.

Men_Are_from_Mars,_Women_Are_from_Venus The news follows the success of 2009's "He's Just Not That Into You" -- the New Line sleeper based on the hook-y self-help bestseller from Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo -- as well as "The Blind Side," the commercial phenomenon based on Michael Lewis' football bestseller (also on the horizon is Lewis' "Moneyball," based on his baseball tome). And then there's "Freakonomics," a documentary derived from Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt's contrarian smash that will play the Tribeca Film Festival and has been picked up for theatrical release by Magnolia.

And there are still plans for an Al Pacino-starring movie based on Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink," although last we heard there were some development/financing snags holding that up.

Just what is it about these titles that Hollywood finds so appealing? There's the name recognition, of course, but also something more specific. Nonfiction books, even ones that don't aim to tell a distinct story, incorporate far more narrative elements than they once did. And Hollywood has gotten far looser about the development process, basically buying a title and then seeing if it  can be taken in any one of a number of logical directions.

Of course, just because this can be done doesn't mean that it will be -- or that, with such nonspecific subject matter, a story will be created that rises above the diluted and generic. Producers gave few clues as to what shape a "Mars" movie would take. "While men and women may never truly speak the same language, we're thrilled to explore their perpetually hilarious, painful and romantic conflicts on the big screen," Berman and Braun stated.  Let's hope the effort is more hilarious than painful.

-- Steve Zeitchik

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