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Hollywood Snaps Up Rights to German Children's Book

New Line Cinema has acquired the film rights to best-selling German children's author Cornelia Funke's fantasy novel "Inkheart." It's an unprecedented success for a German writer.


Cornelia Funke is Germany's most celebrated children's writer, and she's hot property in Hollywood too.

Many writers dream that one day they'll hit the Hollywood jackpot, with movie moguls slugging it out to see which top studio snags the rights to the big-screen version of their book. Britain's J.K.Rowling did it with her famous "Harry Potter" series, but German writers generally don't make much of a splash in Tinseltown.

That may be changing, thanks to the Hamburg-based writer Cornelia Funke. In recent months the 44-year-old mother of two has found herself in the middle of a frantic tussle between Heyday Films and New Line Cinema, both desperate to secure movie rights to her book "Inkheart ."

New Line Cinema has won and has signed her up for a three-movie deal -- similar to the hugely successful Harry Potter series produced by Heyday Films -- which will also cover the subsequent two volumes in Funke's planned trilogy. The second part of the series is due for publication in Germany later this year.

In an interview with DW-TV, Funke was still reeling from her sudden A-list status, saying "all these famous names were being bandied around….Tom Hanks….Brad Pitt…the names kept on coming at me, they talked about taking $50 million in the first weekend…it was everything you imagine Hollywood to be."

Runaway success at home and abroad

Cornelia Funke is Germany's bestselling children's author after J. K. Rowling and R. L. Stine. Born in 1958, she began her career as an illustrator, but soon became bored of the books she was working with and decided to go it alone.

She published her first novel at the age of 28 and now has some 40 titles to her name. German publisher Cecilie Dressler Verlag has sold some 2.5 million of her books in Germany alone, and she's been translated into around 26 languages.

A slow-burning success at home as well as in far-flung countries such as Japan and Sweden, she still had to wait a while to be noticed by English-language publishers.

With English-language markets notoriously slow to pick up on foreign fiction, it wasn't until 2002 that the prolific author made her debut in the U.K. and the U.S. with "The Thief Lord," which fast became a New York Times bestseller and scooped several European children's literature awards. It's also the first of Funke's novels to get a movie treatment, with filming set to begin in Venice this Spring.

Cornelia Funke Tintenherz Coverbild

Publishers then wasted no time releasing "Inkheart" in late 2003. Still no. 7 after 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, it's even giving illustrious rival authors such as Rowling and Lemony Snicket a run for their money.

Scholastic promptly rushed out Funke's "The Princess Knight" in February, and is now eagerly awaiting the second part of the Inkheart trilogy, "Inkblood", which was recently delivered for English translation and will be published world-wide next year.

Following the footsteps of J.K. Rowling

Fêted by the English-language press, Funke realized it wouldn't be long before Hollywood came knocking. Fortunately for her, her brand of fantasy fiction seemed to capture the zeitgeist perfectly, and the studios were soon queuing up to get in on the act.

With its "Lord of the Rings" trilogy down and dusted -- and currently basking in Oscar glory -- , New Line in particular was looking around for another fantasy franchise.

"Inkheart" is a fast-paced adventure story about a young girl whose father has the power to bring characters from books to life. When he's kidnapped by a power-hungry villain from a rare children's fable, his daughter gets together with a group of friends both real and imagined to set things right.

In an interview with The Guardian last October, Funke stressed that she would be signing with the studio most likely to give her creative control. "What for me is most important, and what disturbs especially the Americans, is that I don't talk about money," she said. "I could do a bidding war, but I don't want to, because the only thing that interests me is creative control, and they don't like that."

However, now that Funke has clinched the deal, she seems to be content that the studio "will stay true to my book."

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  • Date 03.03.2004
  • Author DW Staff (jp)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4jaX
  • Date 03.03.2004
  • Author DW Staff (jp)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4jaX