Young-adult sensation ‘The Maze Runner’ gets ready to run the movie gantlet


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Fans of young-adult fiction -- or anyone with young adults in their lives -- probably are familiar with ‘The Maze Runner,’ James Dashner’s fantasy tale.

The first book in Dashner’s planned trilogy -- about a group of boys, and one girl, who are trapped in an alternative universe called The Glade and must navigate an entity known as The Maze to escape -- has been on the New York Times paperback bestseller list for nearly three months after coming out in hardcover in the fall of 2009. The second book, ‘The Scorch Trials,’ was released this past fall and has just completed a one-month run on the newspaper’s hardcover list.


Like Suzanne Collins’ ultra-popular ‘The Hunger Games’ novels and other young-adult publishing phenomena, Dashner’s books use genre conventions to explore the vagaries of growing up. And like ‘Hunger Games,’ Dasher’s stories are poised to make the leap to the big screen.

A film version is set up at Fox, and ‘Twilight’ director Catherine Hardwicke signed on a month ago to direct the adaptation. Now a source close to the film says the project has hired a screenwriter, and he’s an interesting choice: Noah Oppenheim.

Although he’s not written any young-adult films to date, Oppenheim has some A-list credits. A former ‘Today’ show producer, he’s writing the English-language version of the Swedish thriller ‘Snabba Cash’ for Zac Efron. He also created a stir when his story about Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, set up at Fox Searchlight, caught the eye of Steven Spielberg.

Of course, it’s not easy taking a young-adult publishing hit and turning it into a successful movie, something that movies such as ‘Lemony Snicket’ and ‘The Golden Compass’ learned the hard way. Studios these days want to know there’s not only a built-in fan base but a viable way to tell the stories cinematically (and on a reasonable budget).

Then again, studios these days also can’t resist a franchise...

-- Steven Zeitchik


Zac Efron, Jackie Kennedy and a Swedish phenomenon get linked


[For the record, 12:10 p.m: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the story about Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of the JFK assassination was set up at HBO.]