Marcus Zusak's extremely popular second novel - titled The Book Thief - has managed to stay on the New York Times' bestseller lists for 4 years now. Hence, it's no shock to hear that Fox 2000 is pressing ahead full-throttle with a film adaptation (which could begin production this summer).
Twilight franchise producer Karen Rosenfelt is working behind the scenes on the Book Thief movie, which Deadline says has found a director in Brian Percival: a veteran of such period TV mini-series as North & South and ShakespeaRe-Told, who recently stepped into the limelight (and snagged recognition from the Emmys and BAFTAs for his efforts) by directing several episodes during the first season of the popular Downton Abbey series.
For those not familiar with The Book Thief, here is a (sorta) official description of the original work:
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
Zusak's novel presents something of an interesting challenge from a storytelling perspective, seeing how it's actually narrated by Death himself. That omniscient character's tone and manner in the Book Thief novel has prompted comparisons to Lemony Snicket from A Series of Unfortunate Events (in ways both good and bad).
As anyone who knows a lot (too much?) about cinematic narratives can tell you, relying on a whimsical narrator to tell your story in film form is a risky move that can turn out either very well... or become very annoying, very quickly.
Michael Petroni is handling scripting duties on The Book Thief; his previous writing efforts include such supernatural horror critical duds as Queen of the Damned and The Rite, along with the fairly well-receved fantasy series Miracles (which Petroni co-created).
When you combine Petroni's mixed screenwriting resume with Percival's undeniably quality TV period drama work - but lack of experience in handling feature-length projects - the creative forces working on The Book Thief seemingly have the potential to churn out a solid (if recognizably flawed) final product.
Casting could end up making or breaking The Book Thief, as far as its overall quality is concerned. Having Percival in the director's chair should help the project to attract a noteworthy cast - and who knows, perhaps that could push the film into awards-contending territory. As always, best to wait and see.
We will keep you up-to-date on any future noteworthy developments concerning The Book Thief.