EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired an untitled action thriller pitch from Josh Zetumer, with Captivate Entertainment’s Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner producing. The deal was generous for a pitch–high six against seven-figures– and the hope is to launch a franchise. There is an intriguing back story to this deal. Zetumer was the young writer that Universal drafted to script a fourth installment of the Bourne Identity franchise, which is produced by Captivate, the Universal-based company which controls the rights to many of the bestsellers by the late author Robert Ludlum.

The intention was for Zetumer to write a script while Bourne star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass were away making Green Zone for Universal. Unfortunately, things got testy between Greengrass and the studio, and the director stepped off the film. Damon said he wouldn’t make another without his director. Captivate and Universal instead filled the gap with the spinoff film The Bourne Legacy, which Tony Gilroy wrote and directed and which stars Jeremy Renner. The studio maintains it still hopes to bring Damon back in another Bourne, but for now,  Zetumer’s script is just sitting there. The collaboration experience the writer had with the producers and studio execs led Zetumer to shape an original spy thriller project, and that is what Universal has just bought. Zetumer has a number of scripts percolating. His original script Vale is set at Warner Bros, with Management 360 and Ruben Fleischer producing the supernatural detective story; Robocop has Jose Padilha directing at MGM, and Warner Bros also has Infiltrator, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached. Zetumer is repped by Management 360 and UTA.