EXCLUSIVE: Bold Films has set Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista to star and John Wick 2 scribe Kyle Ward to write Dogtown, a film based on the long-running comic book series Body Bags. The comic was created by Jason Pearson (Deadpool, X-Men) and it is a stylized, irreverent action comedy.

Bautista will play Mack Delgado, a professional bounty hunter tough enough to be called a “body bagger.” Things take a turn for him when the teenage daughter he never knew he had turns up on his doorstep, hoping to reconnect with the father she lost long ago. The hope is to start production this fall.

Hivemind’s Jason Brown and Sean Daniel will produce alongside Bold Films’ Michel Litvak, Gary Michael Walters, David Litvak and Jon Oakes. Bautista, Rawson Thurber and Jonathan Meisner will be exec producers with Bold Films’ Josh Throne, Svetlana Metkina, Jason Pearson, Ford Gilmore and Keven Gardner.

Bold

“This is our first big graphic novel based action movie, which marks an exciting transition at the company,” Walters told Deadline. “We are moving into larger budgets, something that started with Stronger. We want to make baby blockbusters, where you take wall-to-wall action, and then scalpel back some of that action and inject more plot, theme and character. The hope is to give a big entertainment experience with a lot of ideas and interesting characters. The ambition of Dogtown is to have a Deadpool tone of humor and action, but at its core, Dogtown is a father-daughter love story about a tough man who reconnects with his daughter. That is the spine. We want to make action movies with heart.”

Walters sees a seam for this kind of formula for films that fall into the $30 million-$40 million zone.

“The comp is Baby Driver, John Wick and Atomic Blonde, films that break north of $50M to $100M in global box office,” he said. “We see a market for people who want to see something besides superhero movies.”

Marvel

Key to that is Bautista, the former wrestler and mixed martial artist who began his ascent in Guardians of the Galaxy, and has quickly established himself in the action arena with films like Blade Runner 2049, Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Hotel Artemis. He is currently shooting Stuber, an action comedy for Fox.

“Dave has quickly become a very appealing as action star; he’s huge, muscled, and can easily sell the action,” Walters said. “But he has delivered in comedy with the Marvel films, and showed the emotional range in Blade Runner. He’s a well rounded actor and we need that because the heart is key and he has that soulful quality. And the U.S. distributors love him.”

Walters said a director will be locked quickly.

Dogtown will bring Bold’s style of edgy, auteur-driven filmmaking into the comic book genre,” said Bold Films chairman Michel Litvak. “Dave Bautista’s mixture of extraordinary action skills, comedic talent and warmth makes him the perfect choice to embody Mack Delgado.”

“Dave was born to bring Jason Pearson’s hilarious, subversive, and beloved comics creations to life on the big screen,” said Hivemind president and producer Jason Brown. “Like Sin City or Kick-Ass, Dogtown has a style all its own – a fast-paced action comedy that’s as much fueled by adrenaline as its emotional family dynamic.”

Bold’s previous films include Whiplash, Drive and Nightcrawler.

Bautista is repped by Gersh, MSK’s Jay Rosenthal and Meisner Entertainment Group.