EXCLUSIVE: In case you missed the memo, MGM is back from the brink, and heading into the New Year, they are very busy. With major productions "The Hobbit" and "Skyfall" underway, the studio is now focusing on a number of other projects they have in the works, and putting particular attention on a movie that could spawn a new franchise.
The Playlist has learned that Chris Weitz ("A Better Life," "About A Boy," "The Golden Compass") has been brought on to rewrite "Heck," based on the book "Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go" by Dale E. Basye. Weitz takes over for David Iserson ("30 Rock," "Saturday Night Live") who penned the first draft of the story that is essentially a school-age version of "Dante's Inferno." Squeaky clean Milton (ha!) and his kleptomaniac older sister Marlo, die in a freak marshallow accident, and are sent to Heck, a reform school where Lizzie Borden teaches home economics, Blackbeard teaches gym and most hilariously, Richard Nixon teaches ethics. Eager to escape, they team up with Virgil to help find a way out.
As for who will bring this to life, a deal is expected to close today with Alex Timbers (first reported by Vulture) whose stage background makes him an interesting choice for the gig. Timbers has worked on a handful of acclaimed stage shows over the years ("Peter And The Starcatcher," "Gutenberg! The Musical!," "A Very Merry Unauthorized…") but in 2010 he scored a big hit with the Tony nominted "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" as well as "The Pee Wee Herman Show" (captured on camera for HBO). And while his hiring suggets "Heck" may go in a musical direction, there is no word yet on if the filmmakers will take that route (though the official site for the book does offer up a song to download).
It's a pretty formidable team they've assembled and it could be the start of something big. "Heck" has spawned four books, with a fifth due in the spring, and film could capture an audience that has clearly enjoyed the tales Basye has spun.