EXCLUSIVE: In a deal that might get writers and their reps to reconsider the value of writing on spec, Warner Bros paid low-seven figures against a purchase price near $3 million for a Dante Harper-scripted adaptation of All You Need Is Kill, a Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Warners execs Jon Berg and production president Greg Silverman moved preemptively for the property and made a deal late Friday that has an aggressive progress to production clause that will likely get the film before the cameras within 12 months.
The book was published originally in Japan by Shueisha and its English language translation was published by VIZ Media. Jason Hoffs, the former DreamWorks exec who is head of production at VIZ Media, got the project to 3 Arts’ Erwin Stoff and Tom Lassally. They optioned the book last fall and involved the writer. Harper and his reps at CAA and Management 360 decided he should do it on spec, instead of pitching it. Pitching is the most common tactic in this sluggish material market, because writers and producers only go forward if studios bite. Because there is little more than an idea at that point, deals are usually low six-figures, unless there is an attachment by a big star or director. Some pitches don’t sell at all, because studios have cut back so drastically on development deals or don’t have money to spend.
By putting in the work and writing several drafts he honed with the producers, Harper–who most recently wrote the Paramount project Black Hole for Plan B and David Fincher to produce–bypassed the pitch morass, made his first seven-figure payday, and has likely improved his six-figure quote by presenting Warners with a movie that can be made quickly. Harper has several other scripts percolating including Dreamland, a drama he hopes to direct about domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, and The Immortalist for director Bennett Miller, the latter for Paramount. He also wrote with Rupert Sanders The Wild Geese, the latter of which was done for Warners’ Silverman, who made the new deal.
The storyline puts a Groundhog Day plot device into a futuristic alien invasion storyline. A raw recruit, pressed into battle against an alien species, gets killed in action. But he is reborn each day to suffer the same fate. Eventually, he notices that he is becoming a better warrior and that other circumstances are changing, which might be the key to altering the outcome.
The film will be produced by Stoff, Lassally and Hoffs, with Hidemi Fukuhara executive producer.