EXCLUSIVE: After relaunching its monster-movie library with the hit The Invisible Man, Universal Pictures is continuing to build up its development slate and has its sights on one of its more iconic non-monster characters. Sources tell Deadline that Universal is developing an original horror/thriller inspired by the studio’s classic monster legacy set in the world of Van Helsing, with Julius Avery (Overlord) directing and James Wan producing through his Atomic Monster banner.
Wan will produce with Michael Clear, and the company’s Judson Scott will serve as executive producer.
The logline for the script is being kept under wraps, but the film is set in the world of the famous monster hunter. How Van Helsing will be used in this film is unknown, but the character — who first appeared in Bram Stroker’s novel Dracula — has had his run over the years, with Universal trying to a launch a franchise in 2004 with Hugh Jackman playing the title role. The film underwhelmed at the box office and never launched the franchise the studio wanted but Universal always viewed it as a top priority in its monster-movie library.
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Avery also is rewriting the script, with Eric Pearson writing the original script.
Universal remains committed to creating compelling filmmaker-driven projects based on characters from the studios vast Monsters legacy. Instead of pushing forward with the initial notion of an interconnected universe, the studio halted and reassessed and were reminded that what has led to these characters’ endurance over generations is passion and relevance – like what was recently done with Blumhouse and Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, which grossed more than $130 million globally.
What makes the hiring of Avery very intriguing is that the studio has said they are open to any takes when it comes to their monsters including whether the film is rated R, which the studio had tried to avoid for years. Following the success of Invisible Man, which was rated R, that option is on the table and given Avery’s track-record, including his no-holds-barred critically acclaimed Overlord from Paramount and Bad Robot, a much darker take on the character is a possibility.
Atomic Monster’s upcoming slate includes Aquaman 2, Malignant, There’s Someone Inside Your House, Mortal Kombat, and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. In television, the company’s slate includes MacGyver, Swamp Thing, Archive 81, and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Overlord helped put Avery on the map with many studios and helped land him the MGM thriller Samaritan starring Sylvester Stallone, which wrapped production.
Pearson penned the upcoming Marvel pic Black Widow.
Wan is represented by CAA, Stacey Testro International and Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light LLP.
Avery is represented as a director by CAA. He is also represented by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman, Inc.
Pearson is represented by ICM Partners and attorney David Colden.
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