DreamWorks has hired Jeff Nathanson to pen the screen adaptation of the first novel of "The 39 Clues", a multiplatform adventure series launching Tuesday from Scholastic Media.
The studio acquired the film rights to the property in June, and Nathanson will crack the first novel in the series, "The Maze of Bones," written by former middle school teacher Rick Riordan.
Nathanson's involvement with the project lends extra weight to the possibility of DreamWorks principal Steven Spielberg jumping into the director's chair. The scribe, who is repped by CAA, worked on three previous scripts for Spielberg: "Catch Me If You Can," "The Terminal" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (he ended up with story credit). Nathanson also wrote much of the scripts for the "Rush Hour" trilogy.
Scholastic Media president Deborah Forte is producing along with Spielberg. DreamWorks executives Adam Goodman and Holly Bario are overseeing for the studio.
"39 Clues" is built around the extended Cahill family, the most powerful clan in the world. The series is designed as an interactive adventure for kids ages 8-12 that will involve books published simultaneously in several countries, online games and hundreds of collectible cards as readers compete to solve the mystery of the Cahills' power by searching around the world and through history. A "39 Clues" Web site will allow readers to track their progress and win prizes as they solve the riddles.
The second book in the series, "One False Note" by Gordon Korman, will be released Dec. 2. Ten books are planned within two years of its launch, setting up the studio for a potential kid-friendly franchise.
"Jeff's writing brings characters to life with his great sense of adventure touched with humor and suspense, just the right recipe for our family film," DreamWorks Studios co-chairman and CEO Stacey Snider said.
Looming is the uncertainty of whether the property would stay with Spielberg and company following any change in the DreamWorks-Paramount relationship. Spielberg is now working on the first big-screen installment of a "Tintin" trilogy.