Hollywood discovers the joys of Scrabble

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The Independent Culture

First there was Scrabble the board game, then the best-selling novel; now its Scrabble the movie. The game long associated with family evenings by the fireside has suddenly become very cool indeed.

Celebrities such as Nigella Lawson are said to play the game for high stakes with friends, Scrabble clubs are springing up all over Britain and it is played across the internet. So hip has it become that two major motion pictures on the game are being developed.

One, which is to be directed by Curtis Hanson of 8 Mile and LA Confidential, will be based on the cult novel Word Freak. The other, to be produced by Miramax, is a love story about a couple who fall in love at the World Scrabble Championship - the seventh world championship was held in Malaysia last week.

The 82-year-old game was the brainchild of unemployed architect Alfred Butts during the American Depression in the 1930s. Butts made the first sets himself using cheap plywood and hand-painted tiles - he managed to sell only 200 sets. It wasn't until the late 1940s that the entrepreneur Philip Brunot successfully patented and marketed the game .

Available in 24 different languages, the game is on sale in many different forms including Junior Scrabble, Pocket Scrabble and - for the real devotee - Scrabble Deluxe.

Butts never made his fortune from the game, which is now manufactured by the toy giant Mattel, but he lived to witness the first World Scrabble Championship in 1991.