Partners

PARTNERS: Albert Berger, left, and Ron Yerxa produce. (Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times)

March 20, 2008

The deal

Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa ("Little Miss Sunshine" and "Election") option "The Wishbones" by Tom Perrotta, his poignant 1997 comic novel about the romantic problems of a wedding musician.

The players

Berger and Yerxa producing, in a deal set up at Warner Independent Pictures. Perrotta, writing the screenplay, is represented on literary rights by Maria Massie and on film rights by Sylvie Rabineau. The novel is published by Berkley Books.

The back story

Hollywood is famous for creative teams, like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. But alliances between producers and the authors whose books they adapt are rare, because the business is built on one-time deals and shifting alliances. One notable exception is the 10-year bond between Berger, Yerxa and Perrotta: Besides "The Wishbones," the producers brought his novels "Election" and "Little Children" to the screen, and are also developing a fourth title ("The Abstinence Teacher").

"We share the same sensibilities, we have the same sense of what a story should be, and appreciate real characters," said Berger. "Tom combines a working class sensibility with an Ivy League sophistication, and we find it very easy to work with him," offered Yerxa. For his part, Perrotta said he has come to trust the producers, because they respect the core of his stories and have been personally loyal to him in the often capricious development process.

With "The Wishbones," that loyalty was tested for 10 years. When it was initially shopped to producers, interest cooled as word spread about a similar project with Adam Sandler, which became "The Wedding Singer." There were several unsuccessful bids to develop the novel, including a screenplay by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Berger and Yerxa jumped at the chance to make another deal now.

"Ron, Albert and Tom have a unique chemistry when it comes to adaptations," said producer Sara Risher, a longtime head of production at New Line. "And in Hollywood, this is truly uncommon. It makes sense for Tom to stick with them. There could have been a big bidding war for this latest book, but they really didn't get into that."

josh.getlin@latimes.com