EXCLUSIVE: Erik Feig’s Picturestart and Patrick Wachsberger’s Picture Perfect Federation have set Luce and Cloverfield Paradox filmmaker Julius Onah to direct their college admissions thriller Bad Genius, which is gearing up for a summer shoot.
Luce scribe J.C. Lee, whose credits as a writer and co-producer also include series such as How To Get Away With Murder and Looking, has scripted the feature with Onah.
As previously announced, the film is an English-language remake of the hit 2017 Thai film by Nattawut Poonpiriya. The US-set adaptation is being described as a high-octane thriller about a group of entrepreneurial high school seniors who team up to take down a rigged college admissions system. Casting discussions are underway.
Former Lionsgate film chiefs Wachsberger and Feig are producing and will be overseeing sales and finance in coming weeks. International distributors are expected to be a key part of the finance. CAA Media Finance reps domestic.
Both execs have struck gold producing on indie movies from emerging creatives in the past 12 months. Feig was recently a producer on Sundance buzz pics Cha Cha Real Smooth and Am I Ok?, both of which scored lucrative deals at the festival. Wachsberger was a producer on hit foreign-language adaptation Coda, which yesterday scored three BAFTA nominations.
The duo expressed their excitement to be working with Onah and Lee and described the project to us as “equal parts Squid Games and Euphoria” in tone.
“We were fascinated by the Thai movie when we saw it but it turned out to be quite complicated to secure the rights,” explained Wachsberger. “This is a very timely project and a fresh take on the original movie. It’s a story about family, class, ambition, envy and justice.”
Feig added: “From the U.S. college admissions scandal to the UK government’s lockdown parties, there is a growing sense that powerful people bending the rules happens far too often. People don’t want to accept that any more and that’s what the movie is about. It’s about the scales of justice and taking back power. And whether it’s Squid Games or Parasite, we’ve seen on screen recently how class plays into that lack of justice.”
In terms of scope, Wachsberger said: “Budget-wise, this is slightly bigger than Coda [whose budget is understood to be around $15M], for example, because of the action sequences. The references are ’80s movies like To Live And Die In LA and Michael Mann’s Thief.”
Jessica Switch and Julia Hammer will oversee the project for Picturestart, while Ashley Stern and Sera Tabb will oversee for Picture Perfect Federation.
The original movie was the highest-grossing Thai film of the year and broke box office records in several Asian countries, including China, making it one of the most internationally successful Thai films ever.
Former Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Wachsberger runs Picture Perfect Federation with backing from French TV firm Federation Entertainment. Former Summit President and Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-President Feik runs Picturestart with backing from partners including Warner Bros, BRON, NENT and Endeavor Content.
Separately, the in-demand Onah was recently set to direct a biopic of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat with his Luce star Kelvin Harrison Jr. attached to star.
Onah is represented by CAA, LBI, and Gang, Tyre, Ramer, & Brown.
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