New Line acquires Kearns script for high-six figures

New Line has tapped Nick Cassavetes to direct its recently purchased family drama “John Q,” a story of a boy who needs a heart transplant.

Cassavetes previously directed “She’s So Lovely” and “Unhook the Stars” for Miramax and has scripted “Blow” for New Line.

Production president Michael DeLuca and senior executive VP Rich Saperstein bought the project for the studio from screenwriter Jim Kearns for high six figures after Kearns reacquired it for mid-six figures from Columbia. The reacquisition transaction occurred under a provision of the Writers Guild of America contract giving writers a two-year window to buy back properties for the writing costs if the script has been dormant for five years.

Drew stars’ interest

Kearns originally sold the story in 1993 to production company Island World, which subsequently sold the property to Columbia. Kearns said the story drew interest from actors Dustin Hoffman and Liam Neeson and director Wolfgang Peterson, but ultimately languished amid shuffles of studio executives.

Kearns said he took the project to New Line because of the enthusiasm that DeLuca and Saperstein had shown for the script when it was first for sale. He noted that he began talks with New Line on a Friday and began negotiations on the following Monday.

Shared passion

“What’s really satisfying at this point is that my passion for the script is now shared by Rich, Mike and Nick,” he said.

Kearns’ managers Marc Burg and Oren Koules, both of Evolution Management, will produce the project. Burg had been an executive at Island World during the original script sale.

The script concerns a little boy who collapses on the field during a Little League game and is rushed to a hospital, where doctors determine he needs a new heart. When the hospital takes the boy off the donor recipient list because he lacks insurance, his father takes the personnel in the hospital’s emergency room hostage.

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