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BOOKIT

Times Staff Writer

The deal

Jose Rivera, Oscar-nominated screenwriter (“The Motorcycle Diaries”), options Micheline Marcom’s “Three Apples Fell From Heaven,” a powerful novel about the Armenian genocide.

The players

Marcom is represented on literary rights by Sandra Dijkstra at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and on film rights by Liza Wachter at the Rabineau, Wachter, Sanford & Harris Literary Agency. Rivera is represented by United Talent Agency and Rick Berg of Code Entertainment. The novel was published by Riverhead Books.

The back story

Sometimes in Hollywood it’s not who you know but how well you know them. Although Rivera and Marcom were represented by well-connected industry players, their recent book-to-film deal was driven more by a personal relationship. Soon after Marcom’s novel was published, she met actress and producer Sona Tatoyan at a Los Angeles reading. Tatoyan, like Marcom, is of Armenian descent, and she became passionate about the highly praised book. She gave a copy of it to her then-boyfriend (and now husband), Rivera, who had a similar reaction. As their friendships deepened, the screenwriter became convinced that the book was not just a potentially great film, he saw it as the Armenian community’s equivalent to “Schindler’s List.”

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But adapting the novel would not be easy. Marcom’s dream-like text shifts back and forth in time, with a profusion of characters. One of the most unforgettable segments is the interior monologue of an Armenian infant who is left with other children under a grove of trees during his family’s death march from its ancestral village. “A lot of authors are accused of writing novels that feel like screenplays,” Rivera said. “But you can’t say that about Micheline. She wrote a literary gem. And it’s a challenge for a filmmaker.”

Rivera was deeply committed to the project, so much so that he wrote a screenplay based on an oral agreement with Marcom; the two signed an option deal only when his agents began hunting for a director. Both see the process more as a labor of love than a legal arrangement. “It felt, and still feels, like Jose’s screenplay has been a collaboration between the two of us,” Marcom said. “But there are two different creative worlds here, and I’m not involved in the film one all that much. In the end, he’ll have to follow his own muse.”

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josh.getlin@latimes.com


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