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'Elric Saga' fantasy series optioned

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NEW YORK (Variety) -- Universal Pictures has joined in optioning "The Elric Saga," a multi-part, Tolkein-esque fantasy series written by Michael Moorcock, for development as a potential big-screen trilogy.

The literary series began with 1972's "Elric of Melnibone." Universal's option deal with production company Depth of Field covers 11 books -- the original six installments of the series and five subsequent novels that touch on the saga.

The film adaptation, which will be produced but not written or directed by Depth of Field partners Chris and Paul Weitz, is conceived as a potential trilogy whose first installment will be culled from the series' first six volumes. The producers plan to shop the book to writers and directors.

The novels are sensual and atmospheric sword-and-sorcery tales that center on Elric, a brooding albino warrior who presides over an unruly, decadent island nation. The novels follow Elric on a series of adventures, in which he is betrayed by his cousin, sent into exile and attempts to come to terms with his own humanity.

"We have loved this series since we were kids and can appreciate it even more as adults. It's a sophisticated, literate, philosophically dense fantasy -- a sort of 'Matrix' of the sword-and-sorcery genre," Chris Weitz said.

Moorcock oversaw the sci-fi magazine New Worlds and helped usher in the "new wave" sci-fi movement of the 1960s and '70s. He also performed in the British hard rock band Hawkwind and will co-produce the movie project.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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