EXCLUSIVE: After feverish bidding, Amazon Studios is nearing a deal for Jack Thorne’s spec script The Aeronauts, developed and set to be directed by Tom Harper.

This has been one of the hottest UK projects floating around, and we’re hearing there were at least six companies vying for the project. But Amazon came out on top with what is believed to be a potential seven-figure deal. The script is based on the true story of balloon pilot Amelia Wren and scientist James Glaisher who, in 1862, embark on an extraordinary journey to discover the secrets of the heavens. In the process, they fly higher in an open balloon than anyone ever has – either before or since. They make breathtaking discoveries, but as they ascend to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, they are forced into an epic fight for survival.

Mandeville Films’ Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman are producing.

Thorne is one of the most sought-after Brit screenwriters out there at the moment. In April, he signed on to adapt Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels His Dark Materials for BBC One, with New Line Cinema producing the event series with UK-U.S. production firm Bad Wolf. He first broke out on the scene for his work on youth-oriented series Skins and has won four BAFTA TV awards for This Is England ’88, The Fades, Don’t Take My Baby and This Is England ’90. He also wrote the smash play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling. Thorne also was a writer on Wonder, based on the novel by RJ Palacio for Mandeville Films/Lionsgate, with Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay starring.

TomHarper
BBC

Harper is also hot property in the UK directing space, thanks to his work on BBC miniseries War & Peace, which aired to rave reviews. His TV credits include Peaky Blinders, Misfits and This Is England ’86, and he recently was tapped to direct the opening episode of AMC’s straight-to-series drama The Son, from Sonar Entertainment and AMC Studios.

Disney-based Mandeville Films is the company behind David O. Russell’s The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Upcoming titles include David Gordon Green’s Stronger, based on Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, starring Jake Gyllenhaal; Disney’s live-action retelling of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens; Roberts and Tremblay-starring Wonder; and Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson starrer The Duel.

Amazon is riding high with awards contender Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Casey Affleck, which has amassed $4.3M from U.S. cinemas and counting.

Thorne is repped by WME in the U.S. and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates in the UK. Harper is with WME and 42.