Usually when writers make their directing debut, they do it at a steep discount. Not Dan Fogelman. The writer of such films as Cars, Bolt, Fred Clause and the upcoming Disney animated film Tangled will make his directing debut at Warner Bros on his script Imagine. I’m told that between what Fogelman will get for his script and directing fee, his payday will be north of $3 million. And Steve Carell will star in the film, which is about a musician in his 60s who tries to live his life differently after reading an old letter written to him by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The rocker tries to track down and reconnect with his biological son, whom he has never met. Carell will play the son.

The $3 million deal (it’s that much if the film gets made, the upfront fee was closer to $2 million) makes this one of the biggest spec auction paydays since, well, the auction held at the close of 2009 for Fogelman’s last spec, Crazy, Stupid, Love. That deal, worth $2.5 million deal, closed last January and made it into production almost immediately. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love stars Carell, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and Warner Bros will release it April 22, 2011. Based on the heat surrounding Imagine, the comedy is expected to move along on a similarly fast track. Carell and his Carousel cohorts Vance DeGeneres and Charlie Hartsock were on the ground floor of the sale that was packaged by WME, which reps Carell and Fogelman. Since Carousel has its deal at Warner Bros, the studio got first look last Friday and took it off the table before others got a chance to bid. The deals are being made right now, and I’ve heard that Jessie Nelson, who collaborated with Fogelman on Fred Clause, and Crazy, Stupid, Love producer Denise DiNovi will likely board the project as producers along with Carousel. Fogelman’s managed by Industry.