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Posted: Mon., Jul. 19, 2004, 10:00pm PT
U's 'Shadow' fantasy
Fortitude's Delaportas, Butkiewicz will produce pic

In its first significant entry into the kid fantasy genre, Universal Pictures has made a seven-figure acquisition of G.P. Taylor bestseller "Shadowmancer" and will adapt it for the bigscreen.

Fortitude Films, which made its first foray into the film business in March by paying Taylor $1 million against $6.2 million for the book, will be the film's producer.

Universal Pictures, led by exec veep Donna Langley, has covered Fortitude's original acquisition tab, which included a promise of 15% of merchandising.

Fortitude's Steve Delaportas and Lisa Marie Butkiewicz will produce.

U will move quickly to hire a scribe for the 17th-century-set tale about a group of kids who try to steal an ancient relic that will be used by an evil sorcerer to bring darkness to the world.

Fortitude makes the U-turn as it sews up a deal with the author for screen rights to Taylor's first nine novels. Deal also would make him the host of a feature documentary about supernatural myths and a talkshow pilot called "Celebrity Dinner."

Fortitude already agreed to pay $1.8 million against $6.5 million for "Wormwood," Taylor's second novel, which is a best-seller in the U.K. and will be published Stateside in the fall.

This is heady stuff for Taylor, a former punk rock promoter who became a cop and then an Episcopalian minister. He added author to that diverse resume when he wrote "Shadowmancer" as a way to kill time while rehabbing an injury.

Not long after Taylor sold his Harley-Davidson to self-publish, the novel became a London phenomenon and runaway bestseller. It was published in the U.S. by Putnam and briefly topped the New York Times bestseller lists for children's chapter books.

While Taylor considers "Wormwood" the second title in a thematic trilogy, the characters and storyline are original, so it is not automatically part of the Universal deal. But that hardly means Taylor would leave the studio in the lurch for the inevitable sequel that would follow if "Shadowmancer" does boffo B.O.

"While we were with Graham, he came up with great 'Shadowmancer' sequel ideas, and he will write treatments for both of them," Delaportas said. "We were approached by several studios, but made the deal with Universal because we were excited by Donna's enthusiasm and the chance to be in business long-term with the studio."

Fortitude's deal with Taylor starts with "Tersias," a recently completed novel about a young boy who, after losing his sight, is overcome by a dark creature that allows the youth to see the future and the desires of men.
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Vicar's £2.5m movie deal

Graham in the graveyard of his church

Write stuff ... Graham in the graveyard of his church


THE vicar who sold his motorbike to publish his debut novel has won a £2.5million movie deal.

The Reverend Graham Taylor celebrated his amazing deal by going for coffee and scones at his local cafe.

Hollywood moguls snapped up Graham’s fantasy yarn Shadowmancer, which became a publishing sensation when it hit the shelves 18 months ago.

They hope to cash in on the success of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter movies.

Steve Delaportas of Fortitude Films — set up specifically for the Shadowmancer project — said: “It’s a spectacular book.”

Yorkshireman Graham, 43, has insisted outdoor scenes in his book will be filmed in Whitby, Ravenscar and Robin Hood’s Bay in North-East England.

Graham, who looks after a flock of 80 at his church in Cloughton, near Scarborough, North Yorks — said: “We celebrated the film deal by going to Bonnet’s cafe in Scarborough for coffee and scones. This doesn’t hit you at all. It’s almost surreal. Half of the money will go in tax anyway so I’ve not spent any yet.”

The contract gives father-of-three Graham five per cent of box office royalties and 15 per cent of all merchandising. On signing the deal, he pocketed more than £100,000.

A similar sum will be handed over if filming hasn’t started in 12 months. And as soon as work does start on the movie he will collect more than £2million.

Justin Hawkins and Sean Bean

Ideal ... Justin Hawkins and Sean Bean

Royalties and merchandising could add over £7million more if the film becomes a worldwide blockbuster.

Graham, who earns £16,000 a year as a vicar, says: “Fortitude want Donald Sutherland to play evil Rev Demurral and I’m keen to get Sean Bean to play a character called Jacob Crane. Sean’s a Sheffield United fan like me and I pictured him as the character as soon as I started writing.

“I’m also a big fan of The Darkness and I’d love Justin Hawkins to play an angel — it’s not a big part but when I saw Justin I knew he’d be ideal.”

The character is an earthbound angel who Graham says “doesn’t like people very much.”

Fortitude Films plan to ask Mel Gibson to direct the movie.

Graham said: “Mel is fine by me. It hangs very well after The Passion Of The Christ.

“I want people in this area to benefit from having an American film crew here. It will bring in more tourists and fill up the bed-and-breakfast places.”

Graham’s second novel Wormwood will be published this summer.

The new book is set in London in the 1800s and features Shadowmancer’s despicable Dagda Sarapuc, who digs up coffins in search of souls.