In one of its biggest buys on the spec market, New Line purchased the action-comedy spec “Mango” for $ 400,000 against nearly $ 1 million. The comedy, described as a combination of “The Odd Couple” and “Every Which Way but Loose,” pairs an orangutan with a cop who’s allergic to animals.

It’s the first script by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, both film school students in the Peter Stark program at USC. John Davis will produce.

Under prexy Michael De Luca and exec VP Richard Saperstein, New Line has made a concerted effort to expand into A-level projects, and has become a regular stop for spec-hawking agents. Though he’s been a bridesmaid on several hotly bid projects this fall, De Luca plucked “Mango” from Wednesday evening with a preemptive bid.

“We’ve bid on a lot, and maybe lost more than we’ve gotten, but if we see something that can be a movie in nine months and that fills a hole in our schedule, then I will act quickly and aggressively until I feel we have enough,” De Luca said. “Also, I’m a sucker for physical comedy and humor with animals. I read it, and quickly got back to John Davis, asking him what it would take to get it off the table.”

The sale was engineered by Warren Zide, a former assistant at ICM who just recently started his own management company, Ogdenhouse Ent., and agent David Warden of Warden, White and Kane. They gave the script to Aaron Weinberg, a development exec at Davis Entertainment, who brought Davis into the mix.

The writers, though unknown in Hollywood, have quickly qualified for big men on campus status.

‘Our classes are at night, and though neither of us was there Wednesday, Miles called in to a classmate who had a cellular phone, and everybody cheered,” Gough said. “It was a great Hollywood-USC Film School moment.”

Zide and Warden will soon be taking around their second script, a futuristic female-driven action film called “Ice.” Millar and Gough said they decided to try screenwriting because the aspiring producers heard it was the easiest way to break into the business once they graduate in May. After a six-figure score, they’ve found it’s also a decent way to wipe out a student loan.

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