A Bethesda man hopes his first movie project comes close to the success of the one upon which it’s built. That one set the bar pretty high, raking in $160 million at the box office.
Jonathan Adler, who grew up in Chevy Chase, is producing a film adaptation of his father’s novel, “The War of the Roses — The Children.” It’s a sequel to the book that spurred the 1989 hit comedy, “The War of the Roses” movie, which starred Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito and involves a bitter divorce.
Warren Adler optioned the film and TV rights to his works to his son in 2012.
Jonathan Adler — who formed Grey Eagle Fillms to produce the sequel and hired Alex McAulay, who wrote the HBO series “Eastbound and Down,” to adapt the screenplay — said he feels “tremendous pressure” to follow up the 1989 film’s commerical success.
The on-screen productions will help drive the book sales and the new book releases will create material for new movies and TV shows, he said.
Warren Adler, who lives in New York City, said he tapped his son for two reasons.
“Number 1, he’s my son,” the author said. “Number 2, he’s a brilliant businessman.”
The Adlers are no strangers to family business.
Jonathan’s first full-time job, at 19, was publishing the Washington Dossier, a magazine founded by his parents and his brother David. Jonathan is board chairman of BizBash media, an event planning publication David founded. Jonathan’s wife, Mary Beall Adler, runs Georgetown Bagelry in Bethesda, where three of their children work.
Jonathan, a University of Maryland business major and graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, said people often ask how he manages to work in Bethesda and not in an entertainment industry hub.
“I have to make the best of it by traveling to New York and L.A. on a biweekly basis,” he said, adding that he’s on the road about 40 percent of the time.
Adler said his experience running companies outside of Hollywood helps when it comes to producing films.
“You really have to focus on running it as a real business and not as an ego trip, which a lot of folks do,” he said.
“The War of the Roses” made a particular impact overseas and was adapted for the stage in more than 10 countries.
“Rosenkrieg,” the German word meaning “rose war,” came to refer to a bitter fight between spouses and its use in literature has grown eightfold since 1990, according to data collected by Google.
“It has proven itself to be a classic,” Warren Adler said. He doesn’t know why.
Jonathan Adler said he thinks the film’s success came from its relatability.
“It is the quintessential story of a failed marriage,” he said. “Everybody understands it.”
Grey Eagle Films also has in the works a Washington-based TV drama, “Capitol Crimes,” adapted from Warren Adler’s Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series. Jonathan Adler said the company has hired writer Eric Overmyer, who has written for “Law & Order” and the HBO series “The Wire” and “Treme.”
Adler said the movie and show are more than two years away, but the company wants to move fast and already has several other films and TV series in development.
“We’re producing as many things as we can as quickly as possible because my dad’s 86 years old,” he said. “And [to] make a lot of money.”