EXCLUSIVE: Who loves ya, baby? Philip Gawthorne has been tapped to write the screenplay for Kojak, Universal Pictures’ modern-day film adaptation of the classic TV series. Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious) will produce with Samantha Vincent for their Universal-based One Race Films alongside Scott Stuber and Dylan Clark, who board the project with their Universal-based Bluegrass Films banner. Kojak is intended to be a starring vehicle for Diesel, who most recently starred in Furious 7, with worldwide grosses of more than $1.5 billion.

Kojak 1The original series, a Universal Television library title, aired on CBS from 1973-1978 and starred Telly Savalas as the lollypop-sucking Lt. Theo Kojak. Gawthorne re-imagine the project into a character-driven franchise. James Bond scribes Neal Purvis & Robert Wade wrote a previous draft of the screenplay.

British writer Gawthorne, who began his career as an English playwright and whose previous credits include several long-running BBC series such as Eastenders, Casualty and Holby City, is much in demand. He is currently writing the Cube remake for Lionsgate with Roy Lee and Jon Spaihts producing and is also behind the spec World Breaker, the much-vaunted medieval-action epic being developed with and co-written by William Eubank (The Signal).

Universal SVP Production Kristin Lowe and Director of Development Jay Polidoro will oversee the project for the studio. Gawthorne is repped by CAA, 42 in the UK and Bloom Hergott.