John Grisham Online: George Clooney buys screen rights to The Innocent Man

George Clooney buys screen rights to The Innocent Man

Warner Independent Pictures and Smoke House partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov bought in December 2006 screen rights to John Grisham’s nonfiction book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

In an unusual alliance of star power George Clooney, the Hollywood actor and producer, is joining forces with John Grisham, the bestselling author, to create films dedicated to exposing miscarriages of justice.

Details are still being worked out in the Grisham deal, but Clooney and Heslov are solely producing at this point.

Grisham, who has blocked attempts to turn some of his novels into films, has agreed to let Clooney make one based on his first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man. Sources close to the 51-year-old author say that other films, television dramas and documentaries may follow.

Even before studios stopped paying outrageous sums for books, Grisham and his longtime editor-dealmaker David Gernert changed the way they sold his titles. After a self-imposed hiatus on deals, Grisham returned but became more interested in quality control and less interested in big paydays.

Published in October by Doubleday, The Innocent Man is the true story of a gross miscarriage of justice that sent Ron Williamson to Oklahoma’s death row for 11 years for a murder he did not commit. Among the flimsy evidence: eyewitness testimony from the man ultimately convicted of the murder.

Grisham ultimately will be paid a seven-figure against gross participation deal if movie gets made. His approval of the deal came only after several conversations with Clooney and Heslov and after sparking to their Oscar-nominated film Good Night, and Good Luck.

Sources: BBC News, Michael Fleming, Pamela McClintock, John Harlow

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