EXCLUSIVE: We’ve rarely seen the feverish level of response that has greeted the pitch by Adam McKay for Bad Blood. This is the movie package that has Jennifer Lawrence attached to play Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the controversial blood-test company Theranos.
A total of nine bidders are in the mix this evening, a day after McKay pitched his vision for the hot-button film he’ll write and direct, very much in the spirit of last year’s The Big Short — for which he and Charles Randolph shared an Adapted Screenplay Oscar. The bidding right now is in the $3 million-$4 million range for his screenplay, for a film that will fall in the $40 million-$50 million budget range. As for the contenders: Universal and Legendary Pictures are the names we are hearing the most right now, along with Fox 2000, Warner Bros, Morgan Creek, STX Entertainment, Cross Creek, Paramount, AG Capital and The Weinstein Company, with Amazon Studios orbiting as well.
The package includes a book proposal by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Carreyrou, who has written articles on Theranos for The Wall Street Journal. This one could land tonight, or by tomorrow at the latest. It has all the requisites for the big packages studios are responding to right now: hot-button subject matter, McKay coming off his Oscar for Big Short and Oscar winner Lawrence, who usually finds herself in the Academy Awards mix on prestige projects, most recently Joy. Bad Blood certainly is the hottest picture package since the Max Landis-scripted spec Bright, which Netflix won with a $90 million commitment with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton starring.
This has been top of buyers’ lists ever since Deadline first revealed that Lawrence and McKay would be teaming on the project. Almost every major player was looking at this seriously over the weekend, with offers on the table even before McKay was scheduled to give his presentation starting today. The background materials, watermarked to prevent leaks, went out on Friday. The combination of McKay and Lawrence — Hollywood’s most bankable female star — in a provocative and timely project offers the potential for a movie in the spirit of The Big Short and The Social Network, with both box office and awards-season potential.
This time around the focus will be on Silicon Valley bubbles and how Wall Street falls in love with the potential behind a potentially disruptive company, and the complications that can arise. Theranos is the blood-testing startup that Holmes founded in 2003, with claims it could test blood with only a pinprick instead of the traditional method of drawing blood by injection. That potential left Theranos with a $9 billion valuation as recently as two years ago. The company since has come under investigation over claims of inaccurate testing, and Holmes’ own worth — at one point valued at $4.5 billion for her 50% stake — has fallen to a fraction of that. The last valuation by Forbes placed the company’s net worth at $800 million.
Gary Sanchez is producing the film with Lawrence and McKay. He is repped by WME and Mosaic; Lawrence is with CAA. WME has been leading the charge on the auction.