Like many writers, Indiana native and Sunday Times best-selling author Chris Kuzneski has had a goal of eventually seeing his work up on the silver screen.
He’ll soon realize that dream.
Film rights to Kuzneski’s new action novel “The Hunters” have been optioned by Piers Tempest and Jo Bamford’s United Kingdom-based production venture.
Mark Huffam (“Prometheus,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “World War Z”) and Chris Clark (“Johnny English,” “The Guard”) have joined the producing team.
Kuzneski, who writes from his home in Florida, will also be a member of the movie’s production team and have a say in the choice of actors and actresses for the film.
“The Hunters” is the first book in a series of the same name. The inaugural novel follows the exploits of ex-soldier Jack Cobb and his treasure-hunting team as they search for a Romanian train filled with riches that disappeared in Russia during World War I.
“The Hunters is such a great story with standout action and brilliant characters,” Tempest said in a press release. “We love this book and are excited to embark on the journey with Chris to deliver a high-octane action thriller.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” Kuzneski, 44, said of the movie deal. “Obviously, it’s a boon to your career” as a writer. “Movies open up many doors and opportunities.”
Kuzneski said he knew in January the movie deal was coming together but had signed confidentiality clauses and couldn’t talk about it then.
“I was approached as early as March of last year” after “The Hunters” came out in the U.K. in January 2013. “There’s so many steps you have to go through to sign off on a deal. I’ve gone through movie negotiations in the past that didn’t work out, so the whole time you’re guardedly optimistic. But as this one went on it became more and more obvious that this was going to happen.”
Tempest will be the lead producer.
“He’s someone who has done very well in the independent film world and has been looking for a long time to break into big budget features,” Kuzneski said.
The production offices will be Pinewood Studios, the major British film and TV studios where several James Bond movies were made.
Kuzneski said he still can’t disclose many of the details about the movie but the producers plan to make “major announcements” about the film at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Kuzneski considered going to France for the festival, but he has writing deadlines to meet and had to choose between attending some of the movie’s early promotional events and having time to later visit the movie set.
“I’d rather be on the movie set,” he said.
Kuzneski said details on who’s writing the screenplay and on when casting and production may start may be announced in Cannes.
“I’ll be the creative consultant” for the movie, he said. “The goal is to make this a movie series as well. So, obviously, I’m the one who has the knowledge of where the books are going, where the characters are going.”
Kuzneski has had some discussions with the producers on who should have the leading roles in the film.
“One of the things we have to balance is not only who we think would be perfect but, a) Who has time available to do it; b) Who you can afford; and c) Who works well with the director,” he said. “Very early on Piers asked me to assemble a list of all the major characters in the book and for me to choose five actors or actresses that I thought would best represent the characters in the book. … That helps to define what my views are” and helps the producers “picture who to go for.
“It almost felt like fantasy football in a way” and saying “I’m going to put this guy on my team and this guy on my team and hope it all works out. Now I’m doing it with actors. It’s surreal,” he said.
Kuzneski previously said a drawback to making his books into movies is that his characters scramble around the globe on their adventures, and filming in many locations could make for an expensive film. But he doesn’t think that will be a problem with “The Hunters.”
“One of the things that really appealed to the producers with “The Hunters” is the majority of the book takes place in Eastern Europe,” he said. “And Eastern Europe is one of the places in the world that’s least expensive to film in.”
Kuzneski has met and talked with other authors whose books were adapted for movies, and for some it was a painful process.
“Because basically it’s your baby, and you’re turning the baby over to someone else and their vision doesn’t match your vision. You have no say sometimes,” he said.
But in discussions with movie producers about “The Hunters,” “they’re saying what I’m thinking, and it’s wonderful,” Kuzneski said. “From my initial conversation with Piers, it was clear that Piers and Jo’s ideas were in sync with mine. Their vision of the film was a perfect match to my vision for the series.”
In addition to the artistic satisfaction of having his writing adapted for the screen, the movie deal has considerable financial implications for Kuzneski.
“Just like book deals, the movie deals are structured the same way,” he said. “They give you some payment up front” and how much the author gets after that depends on how well the movie does at the box office. “If this is a huge blockbuster, then, yeah, the money I make here would blow away anything I’ve done with books.”
At the same time, if the movie does well that would likely increase his book sales and could make his income from books comparable to his movie rights, he said.
Meanwhile on the publishing front, Kuzneski’s next two novels will be available soon to his American fans. “The Einstein Pursuit” will be available in the U.S. on June 1, and “The Hunters” will be out July 1.
The second book in The Hunters series, called “The Forbidden Tomb,” comes out in the U.K. on Thursday and Kuzneski is now writing the third in The Hunters series.
“The Hunters” is one of 10 books Kuzneski has written. His novels have been translated into more than 20 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide.
Kuzneski grew up in Indiana and graduated from Indiana Area Senior High in 1987. He earned degrees in writing and teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and was a part-time sports writer at The Indiana Gazette. He left a teaching career to become a full-time novelist in 1998.