Stephen Daldry to direct film of 'The Corrections'

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Stephen Daldry, the British director who turned the story of boy ballet dancer Billy Elliot into a worldwide box-office hit, has a new Hollywood project on his hands: a celluloid version of The Corrections, the sweeping novel by author Jonathan Franzen that came out to critical acclaim in the United States last year.

Work on the film is expected to begin at the end of the year, Daily Variety reported yesterday. Accompanying Daldry in the venture as the screenwriter will be another British talent of Hollywood, and more regularly of the stage, David Hare. The producer will be Scott Rudin who bought the rights to bring the book to the screen with his own money last summer even before it was released by New York publisher, Farra, Straus & Giroux.

The book, which examines two generations of a dysfunctional family from the American Midwest as it convenes for a family Christmas, won last year's National Book Award in the United States.

The panel called The Corrections a novel that provided readers with a, "a window on the American soul".

It shot to the top of the best-seller lists even though 42-year-old Mr Franzen managed to get entangled in a long-distance spat with TV star Oprah Winfrey. He voiced scepticism when she proposed making his novel her book of the month, an accolade that normally guarantees huge sales in America.

His tepid reaction to the honour led Winfrey to withdraw the offer. Neither the book nor the author ever appeared on her show.

Mr Franzen spent nine years writing The Corrections in an attic over 125th Street in Manhattan's Harlem neighbourhood. He famously donned earmuffs and darkened the room to achieve a state of near-sensory deprivation to write the book. Unable to see the keys of his second-hand computer, he touch typed the pages.

The team of Rudin, Hare and Daldry is already working together on a film adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours, a contemporary story about two women which draws on the life and work of Virginia Woolf. That film is expected to be released later this year and the shooting of The Corrections should follow on quickly.

The main characters in Mr Franzen's book are Alfred and Enid Lambert, two midwestern pensioners, and their children, Chip, Gary and Denise.

The author once said that he imagined Paul Newman and Shirley MacLaine playing the parents. There is no word yet whether Mr Rudin will indulge his wish.