Encyclopedia Brown and the case of the possible movie
If you are a child of a certain age (and, I guess, from a certain continent) you grew up reading ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN novels and having your mind blown to smithereens by how stoopid a villain Bugs Meany was (though it was cool that Sally got to beat everyone up. The girl as muscle! Totally awesome.) And perhaps even a few of you wondered when the Boy Detective would get to star in his own movie. Well, now he might — well, if not for a few wrinkles:
On Monday, agents for the producers Howard Deutsch and Ridley Scott sought to change that by setting in motion what they hoped would be a lively auction of the movie rights to “Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective,” a trove of some two dozen books. The agents began calling all the major Hollywood studios with a package offer that included the movie rights, an action-adventure script, the rights to ancillary markets, like video games and merchandizing, and the cachet of the powerhouse filmmaker Sir Ridley.
For Mr. Deutsch, who bought the multimedia rights to the books in 1979 for $25,000, it was, he hoped, the final push to bring Encyclopedia Brown to the giant screen after myriad attempts in 25 years.
“It’s a classic, and it’s been relevant to three generations of children,” Mr. Deutsch said.
So what are those wrinkles, you might ask? Oh, the fact that the book’s author, Donald Sobol, wants nothing whatsoever to do with it:
The book’s author, however, was not pleased about the prospect. Reached in Miami, Donald J. Sobol, the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, said he knew nothing of plans to bring his books to the big screen and wanted nothing to do with Mr. Deutsch.
Mr. Sobol, 81, who published the latest in the series, “Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs,” in 2003, said, referring to Mr. Deutsch: ““I will not identify with the name you used. Don’t talk to me about that name. He’s no hero.”
Mr. Sobol filed a lawsuit against Mr. Deutsch, among others, in 1983, contesting the rights agreement and demanding $20 million. The case was settled out of court and is covered by a confidentiality agreement, Mr. Deutsch said. Mr. Sobol declined to elaborate except to say that Mr. Deutsch now does have the movie rights but that they would eventually revert back to him.
“The rights are going to expire, and I will then take over,” Mr. Sobol said. “If someone starts to produce movies in a year, and I take back the rights, they’re going to be stuck.”
Mr. Deutsch said: “I’m a little blown away to hear that he said that about me. This was resolved in a manner that I thought was amicable, and subsequently I’ve had conversations with him with respect to the property.” Mr. Deutsch said that he, not Mr. Sobol, owned the rights for “many years into the future, and I’m sure that Donald did not mean to say what he said.”
I’m kind of hoping this gets to be the first movie in the franchise, but I’ll admit it’s a longshot…