EXCLUSIVE: One of the widest-ranging film spec script auctions in years has ended with New Line winning the deal to finance and distribute Don’t Worry Darling, the genre script that Olivia Wilde will direct and star in.
Deadline revealed the auction last week, and it swelled to 18 bidders that included Netflix and monied production companies from Legendary to FilmNation, MGM, Village Roadshow Pictures, Apple and Universal-based Blumhouse. The bids were narrowed to six and then three, and Wilde made the decision to go with New Line, which was aggressive from the start.
Why so many bids? Wilde is coming off a much admired directorial debut on Booksmart, and like elevated genre fare that includes Get Out, Don’t Worry Darling is a smart concept that is timely in the Times Up era and can be executed as a reasonable budget. There is a strong male lead role as well. That is the recipe for a possible breakout follow-up. New Line will finance a film in the $20 million-budget range, with a break-even gross corridor for Wilde and producer Roy Lee and perhaps more.
The film is a psychological thriller about a 1950s housewife whose reality begins to crack, revealing a disturbing truth underneath. The original script is by Shane & Carey Van Dyke, and buyers were impressed by how Katie Silberman — Booksmart co-writer — will rewrite and tailor the script to Wilde’s vision.
The auction took longer than usual, because Wilde is away shooting the Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell. But she supplied a strong director statement and other materials that conveyed her vision to buyers and was scheduled to fly in Friday to meet the finalists.
It’s the second recent splashy sale for Wilde and Silberman, who had six studios bidding for an untitled holiday comedy pitch that was won by Universal.
New Line co-heads Richard Brener and Carolyn Blackwood chased this, and insiders said it fit the company’s history of pursuing emerging genre directors. That’s what happened with Andy Muschietti on It; Gary Dauberman on Annabelle Comes Home; David Sandberg, who followed Lights Out with Shazam!; and Michael Chaves, who followed The Curse of La Llorona with The Conjuring 3. New Line EVP Production Daria Cercek and creative exec Celia Khong will oversee. Cercek championed the project while on maternity leave.
Wilde is repped by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and Ziffren Brittenham LLP; Silberman is repped by MXN Entertainment and Myman Greenspan; the Van Dykes are with Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment and the Nord Group.