EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has landed Need To Know, with Charlize Theron attached to star in and produce the upcoming novel by Karen Cleveland. The thriller is about a wife and mother who works as a CIA analyst. One morning while digitally searching files in hopes of unmasking a Russian sleeper cell in the U.S., she makes a shocking discovery that threatens her job, her family and her life. Beth Kono, AJ Dix and Theron will produce through their Denver & Delilah Films banner.

An academic study just came out that noted the uptick in female protagonist-driven films. Universal clearly is mining that turf here as the Mad Max: Fury Road star gets to go into Jack Ryan territory. This extends the relationship between the Oscar-winner Theron and the studio after she joined the cast of The Fate Of The Furious, the F. Gary Gray-directed latest installment of the studio’s lucrative street racing franchise that hits theaters April 14. She follows that with The Coldest City and most recently wrapped production on Tully.

Cleveland knows the spy game; she has worked the past few years as an analyst for the CIA. The book made a big splash late last week, with several studios making offers. It hasn’t officially been set for publishing, but I’ve heard that Ballantine is the likely publishing house.

WME brokered the deal, and The Gernert Company’s David Gernert is Cleveland’s lit agent. Theron is repped by WME and Hanson Jacobson.