James Frey’s Next Act
Book series, movie deals, disgruntled writers
For James Frey, success and controversy are a package deal.
His 2003 debut book, “A Million Little Pieces,” was named Amazon Book of the Year and has sold eight million copies in more than 30 languages. When it was revealed that parts of the purported memoir were actually fiction, the press turned on him and Oprah Winfrey filleted him on national television.
For Mr. Frey’s new venture, Full Fathom Five, the author oversees lesser-known writers as they develop fictional ideas into books that he then markets to publishers and film studios. Its first offering, “I Am Number Four,” is a young-adult science-fiction thriller about an alien who comes to Earth as an Ohio teenager. It was published in August and hit the best-seller list. Michael Bay brought the project to DreamWorks Studios, where partners Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg acquired the film rights after reading the book, with Mr. Bay as producer. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron and Timothy Olyphant, the film will be released in February, DreamWorks’ first offering since it severed ties from Paramount and became independent, with its movies distributed by Disney.
Full Fathom Five is already wrapped in real-life drama. One writer hired attorneys to represent him when dealings with Mr. Frey grew contentious (the dispute was settled late last month). Mr. Frey says that a disgruntled writer is working on a magazine story about him. The writer declined comment. “I go to work and try to do cool things. I can’t control what people write about me,” says Mr. Frey.
Mr. Frey began contemplating the operation that has become Full Fathom Five around the time he finished reading the last installment of the Harry Potter series in 2007. “Someone is going to replace Harry Potter,” he recalls thinking. “Maybe it’ll be me.” A co-owner of an art gallery in New York, Mr. Frey imagined a literary version of an artist’s workshop, where one person with a vision employs others to execute it. “I have too many ideas,” he says.