With his historical action-drama In the Heart of the Sea steadily gathering Oscar buzz as it prepares for a theatrical bow in just a couple of weeks, director Ron Howard is already lining up another red-hot project: psychological thriller The Girl Before.
The novel, by author J.P. Delaney (believed to be a pen name for bestselling writer Tony Strong), centers around a woman recovering from past traumas who begins to fall for an extraordinary minimalist house and the man responsible for its unusual design. But as she becomes more familiar with the building and its creator, the woman is shocked to learn that a similarly traumatized woman died there three years prior – and that she stands the risk of allowing history to repeat itself.
Ballantine Bantam Dell Random House isn’t publishing the book until the fall of next year, but it was recently the subject of a bidding war between Universal, TriStar, Paramount and two indie financiers. Universal walked away the victor and quickly set Howard to direct, with Michael De Luca producing alongside Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer, Howard and Erica Huggins.
Attaching a big name like Howard is a bold step forward for the project, especially given that Universal doesn’t seem to be waiting around to gauge audience reaction to the thriller when it hits shelves next fall. But who can blame the studio for trusting the veteran helmer? Howard’s body of work is more diverse than most, with acclaimed biopics (Rush, Frost/Nixon), blockbuster conspiracy thrillers (The Da Vinci Code) and even mainstream comedies (The Dilemma) under his belt, and it should be terrific to watch him bring his considerable skill-set to a smaller, character-driven thriller.
No word yet on where The Girl Before will fit into Howard’s busy schedule – he’s currently in post-production on Inferno, his third Dan Brown adaptation after Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, and he’s still heavily involved in the ambitious Dark Tower adaptation taking shape over at Sony and MRC. My money is on it arriving sometime in 2017, after the book (hopefully, for all involved) catches fire with readers.