THE BOOK: Published in 1992, Tartt’s debut novel, which is set on a Vermont college campus where a group of Classics seminar students kill one of their classmates, became a runaway best-seller.
WHAT HAPPENED? Director Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice) optioned the book before it was published, enlisting literary couple Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne to write the screenplay. Through the years, other writers took a crack at the adaptation, and in 2001 Gwyneth Paltrow signed on to produce, with her brother Jake set to direct. But the literary rights have since reverted back to Tartt.
WILL WE EVER SEE THIS MOVIE? Highly unlikely. Tartt didn’t shop the rights to her second book, 2002’s The Little Friend, and seems to be less than eager to restart efforts to bring The Secret History to film. A spokesman says, “For the time being, she’s not interested in having a movie made based on [her first book].”
POTENTIAL SAVIOR: Ang Lee showed a knack for capturing the tendencies and neuroses of upper-class New Englanders in The Ice Storm, which, like his Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution, was a literary adaptation. Plus, with a studio chief—Focus Features’ James Schamus—as his primary screenwriting partner, he has an advantage when it comes to cutting through red tape.