Times Staff Writer

The deal

Kyra Sedgwick and Emily Lansbury option Sara Zarr’s “Story of a Girl,” a National Book Award finalist about a 13-year-old girl whose father catches her having sex in a car with a boy, and whose life is dramatically altered by the experience.

The players

Sedgwick and Lansbury producing; Laurie Collyer (“Sherrybaby”) attached as writer and director. Zarr is represented by Michael Bourret with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. The book is published by Little, Brown.


The back story

The next time your teenager raves about a novel, pay attention: It could become your next movie. Hollywood players typically learn about potential books to option from reviews, agents, literary scouts and word of mouth. But sometimes the inspiration is right at home. When Sedgwick was vacationing in Los Angeles last summer with her 14-year-old daughter, Sosie, Lansbury, a friend and literary scout, recommended several books for the teen to read. One was Zarr’s novel, and Sosie was smitten. She told her mom to read it, insisting it could be a movie.

“The book was very impressive, but what stuck in my mind is that [Sosie] said nobody talks about what teenage girls go through, what they worry about,” Sedgwick said. “It resonated with me.”

Lansbury, a producing partner, said the deal got even more tantalizing when Zarr’s novel became a finalist for a National Book Award for young people’s literature. “This book was so special,” she noted. “There just aren’t many films dealing with this topic.”

With the obvious exception, of course, of “Juno.” But Collyer pointed out key differences between this year’s Oscar-nominated film about a pregnant teenager and “Story of a Girl.” “We’re talking about a compelling, naturalistic drama; it’s not a high-concept movie. This is about a girl trying to come to terms with her bad reputation and how it haunts her.”

For her part, Zarr said young-adult fiction writers have been mining this turf for years and that a movie version of her novel would bring an important message to the screen: “These are stories that adults and children can respond to,” she said. “They’re not just meant for teenagers.”