Hollywood got a Dear John letter from teen girls a few weeks ago, and now it’s desperately trying to win them back with a dip in the fountain of youth and a spritz of estrogen.
The massive $30.5 million opening weekend for the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’s weeper novel has had a profound effect on development executives and talent agencies. Suddenly, the order of the day is to get ahold of the script to Letters to Juliet, Summit Entertainment’s May teen romance starring Dear John lead Amanda Seyfried, in order to use it as a template.
Summit, of course, is the mini-studio whose Twilight franchise began Hollywood’s tilt away from making movies that were merely aimed broadly at “women” and toward films specifically targeting tween and teen girls. Shrewdly, Summit will exclusively debut the trailer for Twilight: Eclipse before the new Robert Pattinson romantic drama, Remember Me.*
But after Dear John, the rest of Hollywood is breaking out the Clearasil in earnest. At Warner Bros., Gossip Girl executive producer Stephanie Savage has been working on a draft of Au Pairs — a sort of Cruel Intentions set on Fire Island.
Over at Columbia Pictures, there’s greatly renewed interest in Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher’s long-gestating remake of the 1963 musical Bye Bye Birdie, which drips with the same off-to-war teen angst and lust as Dear John. A new draft is expected by the end of the month from recently hired Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist screenwriter Lorene Scafaria. Moreover, Adam Shankman, who brilliantly re-created Hairspray for New Line in 2007, has been brought on to produce and possibly direct.
At Screen Gems, the incubator of Dear John, Wick and Fisher are also developing Beautiful Girl, an original teen thriller by The Hours screenwriter Michael Cunningham; it’s about a girl who becomes dangerously obsessed with her male teacher.
And over at Universal Pictures, Diablo Cody is adapting the Sweet Valley High franchise. Cody manager-producer Mason Novick, who also produced Cody’s script Juno, says her take is to focus on twin sisters Liz and Jessica Wakefield in a way that appeals to mothers who grew up reading the eighties pulp as well as to their tween daughters. (There are 181 books in the Sweet Valley series, but we’re secretly hoping Cody culls material from Sweet Valley High No. 42, Caught in the Middle, wherein their pal Sandra Bacon is, like, so in love with Manuel Lopez? But her parents are, like, totally narrow-minded racists?) Cody is expected to turn in a draft sometime late next month.
*this sentence corrected since the original post