The latest bestselling young-adult novel to get a feature film adaptation has found itself a hot new screenwriter. Noah Oppenheim will adapt The Maze Runner, a New York Times bestselling adventure book by James Dashner, that follows a group of kids who must navigate a deadly maze to make it out of an alternative dimension. Catherine Hardwicke has been tapped to direct the film, which is set up at 20th Century Fox

Oppenheim, a former producer on The Today Show, hit the 2010 Black List and got the attention of Steven Spielberg with his script called Jackie, which is about Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s set up at Fox Searchlight. He’s also writing the American remake of Snabba Cash for Zac Efron. Read more about The Maze Runner, see a fan video and more after the jump.

The Los Angeles Times broke the news of Oppenheim’s involvement with The Maze Runner but there’s no word on when it might make it into production. Hardwicke seems to have an opening in her schedule now – with Red Riding Hood ready for release – but Oppenheim is just beginning work on the script. The director has a few other things she’s been circling, so chances are one of those might happen first before The Maze Runner starts up.

The book, however, seems to have a lot more momentum. The Maze Runner is the first part of a trilogy and spent several months on the New York Times bestseller list after its release in 2009. The second book in the series, The Scorch Trials, was released this past fall and shared similar success.

It’s predictably being mentioned in the same breath as the Twilight and Hunger Games books as the next young-adult sensation. Then again, only Twilight has really proven itself as a multimedia sensation so far. The Hunger Games might be a literally sensation, but the film adaption is only in its earliest stages of pre-production. And unlike Twilight, but very much in the vein of The Hunger Games, the story behind The Maze Runner seems kind of violent and frightening.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

To give you an idea of what a Maze Runner film could look like, check out this fan video. Much like what happened with The Hunger Games, a filmmaker who was a fan made this on their own.

Sounds like a great movie that we should see the light of day in a few years. What do you think of the combination of this material, Hardwicke and Oppenheim?

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