While many are taking a long weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday, Ron Howard is still hard at work. The filmmaker was involved in an intense bidding war for the rights to an upcoming novel, and he came away the victor. Per Deadline, Universal Pictures has secured the rights to the 2016 thriller novel The Girl Before, penned by author J.P Delaney, with Howard attached to direct and produce through his Imagine Entertainment banner. Howard’s partner Brian Grazer, Michael De Luca, and Erica Huggins will also produce the project, which heated up quickly as Paramount, TriStar, and indie studios vied for the rights.
The book is believed to have been written by bestselling author Tony Strong under a pseudonym and revolves around a traumatized woman who falls in love with an extraordinary minimalist house and the man who designed it. However, when she realizes that its previous occupant was a similarly damaged woman who died there, she begins to wonder if she’s following in deadly footsteps.
Howard’s a bit of a journeyman director in that he swings from genre to genre with varying degrees of success, but he’s never helmed a contained thriller before—his Dan Brown adaptations The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons are probably the closest he’s come. But he’s always a curious filmmaker, and he’s on a fascinating tear as of late. 2013’s Rush was a sorely underrated entry in Howard’s oeuvre, and he reteams with star Chris Hemsworth and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle for the 19th century drama/actioner In the Heart of the Sea, which opens in theaters in just a couple of weeks.
The filmmaker is currently in post-production on his third Brown adaptation, Inferno, but it’s possible that The Girl Before could be his next film should the screenplay come together quickly. He’s also deeply involved in producing the ambitious The Dark Tower adaptation, which he was at one point set to direct.