‘World War Z’ Sequel Director Juan Antonio Bayona to Tackle ‘A Monster Calls’ First

Focus Features is nearing a deal to acquire the high-profile project, which was packaged by CAA

River Road Entertainment, Participant Media, Lionsgate International and Focus Features are teaming up to finance and distribute Apache’s production of “A Monster Calls,” an adaptation of Patrick Ness’ acclaimed novel that comes with Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”) attached to direct, the companies announced Wednesday.

The film, which will serve as Bayona’s follow-up to “The Impossible,” will be produced by Belen Atienza (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and is slated for a fall 2016 release. River Road’s Bill Pohlad and Mitch Horwits, Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King, and Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger will serve as executive producers.

“Monster Calls” is a visually spectacular drama about a young boy who attempts to deal with his mother’s illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that deal with courage, loss and faith.

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Ness wrote the novel based on an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, and he and illustrator Jim Kay won prestigious awards presented to the year’s best children’s literature in the UK. Ness is adapting the screenplay from his novel. He’s also the author behind the “Chaos Walking” trilogy that Lionsgate has been trying to get off the ground for several years.

Focus will distribute “A Monster Calls” domestically, while Universal Pictures International will handle its theatrical and home entertainment release in Spain and Lionsgate International will distribute throughout the rest of the world.

“It is an incredible privilege to bring Patrick Ness’ exceptional book to the screen and I couldn’t have imagined better partners joining me in this endeavor. After ‘The Orphanage’ and ‘The Impossible,’ ‘A Monster Calls’ is the perfect final chapter in a trilogy centered on the extraordinary strength of the mother-child bond,” said Bayona.

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“We’re pleased to join with our friends at Participant, River Road and Focus Features in financing and distributing this cherished and compelling property that has already earned a tremendous following in the world of children’s literature,” said Wachsberger. “We’re delighted to reunite with the creative forces behind our worldwide hit ‘The Impossible,’ and there is nobody better suited to creating the fantastical world of ‘A Monster Calls’ than the visionary filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona.”

“River Road has collaborated to great success with Participant, Lionsgate International and Focus Features on several films, and we look forward to uniting for this distinguished project, which is in line with our effort to support captivating storytelling and incredibly talented filmmakers, like Juan Antonio Bayona,” added Pohlad.

“All of us at Participant are thrilled to be in such good company for this deeply moving tale about the power of storytelling, which could not be more perfectly aligned with our mission,” said King.

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“Juan Antonio Bayona is a filmmaker whose storytelling skills and stunning visuals are truly distinctive.  He captures emotional truths amidst fantastical and terrifying situations, making him the ideal director to bring this acclaimed novel to a wide audience. I am pleased to make this our first co-production as CEO of Focus Features,” added Schlessel.

The deal was negotiated by Participant Media COO Jeff Ivers, Horwits, Wachsberger and Peter Schlessel along with CAA, which represents Bayona.