EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures just landed itself a potential new global franchise. The studio will team with IM Global and James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for The Rhythm Section, a female global espionage thriller to star Blake Lively, with The Handmaid’s Tale director/exec producer Reed Morano to helm the first of what they hope will become a franchise. Paramount acquired the film and will release it in most world territories.

Both Paramount and IM Global confirmed the deal. Said new IM Global chief Rob Friedman, “I’m thrilled to be working with Barbara and Michael on this very exciting project.”

Harper Collins

Lively, Morano, Eon Production and recently exited IM Global head Stuart Ford aligned earlier this summer to the thriller that is fueled by the work of British novelist Mark Burnell, who wrote the script. Ford, who forged a relationship with Broccoli on the Toronto-bound Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, will be exec producer along with Greg Shapiro and Burnell. It is worth noting that for the producers of the iconic male 007 franchise, this is the first espionage thriller they’ve done outside that, and they’ve chosen one built around a female protagonist. Production will begin in the fall.

Lively plays a woman who is on a path of self-destruction after her family dies in a plane crash — a flight that she was supposed to be on. After being told by a journalist that the crash was an act of terror covered up by intelligence agencies, and then watching that journalist get killed, the woman’s anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible. The new and lethal Stephanie Patrick is on a mission to fill the void between what she knows and what she is told.

Other novels in Burnell’s popular series include Gemini, The Third Woman and Chameleon.

Lively is coming off the sleeper summer 2016 hit The Shallows, the Woody Allen-directed Café Society and The Age Of Adaline. She also co-starred in the Ben Affleck-directed The Town. The cinematographer-turned-director Morano most recently helmed (and was DP on) I Think We’re Alone Now, with Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning. That film is in post for a 2018 premiere.

Morano and Lively are repped by WME, the latter also by Management 360. WME Global brokered the deal.