If you haven't gotten your sticky fingers on a copy of Ally Carter's enjoyable "Heist Society," you may want to (lawfully) nab one because the long-gestating film version is gaining steam! As we reported yesterday, the movie rights for the novel have been acquired by Lionsgate and "Hunger Games" star Elizabeth Banks' Brownstone Productions (a venture with husband Max Handelman).
On the other hand, if you've been closely following teen thief Katarina's Bishop winding journey to the big screen, then you know the rights were originally purchased way back in 2011 by Warner Bros., with Drew Barrymore producing. But much has changed since that deal, so we hopped on the phone with Ally to get all the aca-awesome details. (Yes, there is a "Pitch Perfect" connection!)
Hollywood Crush: Last we heard, the rights for "Heist Society" were with Warner Bros. and Drew Barrymore's Flower Films. I assume they've since expired?
Ally Carter: It's a pretty common tale in Hollywood. Everything has really good momentum until it doesn't. So Drew came on. Shauna Cross was working on the script. Everything was really exciting and then the script—we just couldn't get the script just right. So the rights did expire. That freed us up to shop elsewhere. They were great, but it just didn't work. As my agent says, it's not science, it's not art, it's alchemy. So there are a lot of different factors that go into play, and more often than not, these things don't work out. Sadly, that was the case this time, but the good news is you get a fresh start.
How did Elizabeth and Max get involved?
I was actually out in L.A. on tour for "Perfect Scoundrels" back in February, and I went out to lunch with my agent. I had seen "Pitch Perfect" in the theaters, of course. I knew I was going to have some really long plane rides on tour, so I had downloaded it on my iPad to watch on the airplane. And she was like, "How is tour going?" And I was like, "Great, because every time I get on an airplane, I get to watch 'Pitch Perfect.'" And she said, "Well, you know they're clients of United Talent Agency. We actually represent Elizabeth Banks and her husband, Max Handelman, who is her production partner." And she said they're great, and they're so smart, and they're doing such smart things, and it was at that time that the "Heist Society" rights had just expired. And I said, "Do you think they'd be interested in 'Heist Society'?" And she said, "There's one way to find out!" So we sent it to them, and when she got back with me that they were in fact interested, I was absolutely over the moon. It's been really hard not to talk about it because I'm so excited about it. And then, of course, Elizabeth has such a great relationship with Lionsgate that she was able to get them to be interested, as well, which is the total cherry on top.
You've talked with Elizabeth and Max about their vision for the film. What did they have to say?
Basically, we just wanted to make sure that the chemistry was right and everything. I just really loved both of them. They're just really smart people. You have Elizabeth, the actress, and it's becoming incredibly plain to me that Elizabeth, the producer, is going to be an equal sort of formidable person in this town. And I think they founded this production company so that they could spend time together. He was a Wall Street guy, I believe, so they figured with her traveling all the time... So it's very much their family business, and they're just incredibly smart. They have a really good take on the material. They understood what makes Kat special and what makes the world special and really what the beating heart of that world is. And I'm really excited about that.
Another thing that impresses me about her is—and this is something we talked a little bit about on the phone but in just reading interviews with her—she just really actively went after the role of Effie Trinket, and she was one of the first people who really said, "'Hunger Games' is a big deal. 'Hunger Games' is a great book. I want to be involved in whatever it takes to be involved in 'The Hunger Games.'" And that, I think, impresses me a lot. She's someone who really, really gets great heroines, so that's the kind of person I'm excited to be in business with.
Did they give you any sort of production timeline? What are the next steps?
Next step would definitely be getting a screenwriter and a script. How long that takes—it could take a week, it could take a year. It's Hollywood. You never really know, and then we're going to be back in the position we were with Warner Bros. You've got good people involved. You've got good people, who are excited, and we'll just see how the script turns out, and if it's the right time and the right place. It always boils down to the script, which I guess is what it should boil down to. If the material is there and the material is right, things will go forward.
Do you have a good sense of what your involvement will be like? Will you have script approval?
No, I don't have script approval. I think J.K. Rowling gets script approval, but I think it's a list of one at this point. Again, as my agent told me, no studio is going to invest millions of dollars into something and give one person the right to pull the plug on it. So I don't have script approval, but I really get the sense that they're going to welcome feedback and ideas and at the end of the day, my job is to write books. So you get into business with the people you trust the most and you feel the best about and then you write more books. So that's kind of been my philosophy, and I'm going to try to stick to that one, as well.
Is there anyone from the "Pitch Perfect" cast you could see filling a "Heist Society" role?
Absolutely. I think they just take the whole cast. We'll just work around them, as far as I'm concerned.
It could be a musical!
Why the heck not! I know they're doing a "Pitch Perfect 2." If you're looking for a plot for "Pitch Perfect 2," maybe we've got one.
And speaking of writing more books, what do you have coming up next?
I also announced this week that I sold a new series to Scholastic. It's called "Embassy Row," and it's about a girl who's the granddaughter of one of the most powerful ambassadors in the world. She's been living in the States with her father, and her father is in the Army and is deployed overseas, so she has to go Europe to live with her grandfather, who she hasn't seen in years. And there, she discovers clues to her mother's death and that leads her down sort of a rabbit hold of international intrigue and espionage. That will be out spring of 2015.
One other thing I have to mention is the sixth and final "Gallagher Girls" book is coming out in September. So very excited about that one. I'm really, really happy with the way the series ended. I hope that readers will agree with me. I think it ended in a good place. I keep terrifying my readers, telling them I don't owe them a happy ending; I owe them a satisfying ending. I think I have achieved the latter.
Are you hopeful about Elizabeth producing "Heist Society"? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!