EXCLUSIVE: Armed with a four-minute test reel and a passionate 20-minute pitch, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia co-creator and co-star Rob McElhenney has closed a significant deal at Legendary Pictures to make his feature directorial and screenwriting debut. Legendary has made what I’ve heard is a potential seven-figure commitment to preemptively acquire his family action pitch Figment, with McElhenney tied to write the script and direct the film, and produce it. It’s a family action adventure about an imaginative boy and his family who are thrown for a loop when their greatest fears come to life. It is a template for the kind of large scale film that fits the Legendary template, and there is a ticking clock incentive that puts it on a fast track. Legendary will produce with 3 Arts’ Nicholas Frenkel and McElhenney.

funnyThese kinds of deals for first timers are hard to come by, and the difference here is what McElhenney calls “proof of concept.” It’s the second big career break he has had that was made possible by that adage. Long a struggling actor who was fed up with auditions, McElhenney changed his luck when he and Glenn Howerton gathered Charlie Day and their cohorts and went out and shot episodes for the raucous sitcom idea It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Based on what they shot, they sold the show to FX after pitching seven networks. He didn’t have to make that many stops for Figment. He came to Legendary with his four minute amalgamation of two scenes from his film. After they heard McElhenney’s pitch, they bought it right there. The video gave a sense of the nostalgic feeling, the wonder and imagination that conveyed the bond between the key character and his “figment,” on a film that has thematic aspirations to be comparable to a Goonies or E.T.

McElhenney is repped by 3 Arts,WME and attorney David Weber; Legendary execs  Jillian Share and Sophia Sikora are executive producers.