‘Mercury’ rises at Universal

Hurd, Ross may produce action-drama

Universal will pay low-mid- against high-mid-six figures for “Mercury,” an action-drama by tyro scribes Wm. Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman to be produced by Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Motion Pictures and f/x studio Digital Domain.

A deal for Digital Domain topper Scott Ross and Hurd (“Virus,” “Armageddon”) to produce is being finalized. “Mercury” becomes the second project Digital Domain is set to co-produce at U, following the studio’s pickup of comedy “Instant Karma.”

Venice-based DD signaled its intent last year to move aggressively into feature production to complement its Oscar-winning f/x work. It since has placed at least eight feature projects into various stages of active development.

“Mercury” involves a dark conspiracy that ensnares a young man, enmeshing him in the trappings of his favorite videogame. The futuristic and techno nature of the script is expected to require elaborate pre-production planning, and shooting is unlikely until at least next summer.

Helmer’s chair empty

A director search is under way, with casting to follow.

ICM’s Barbara Mandel repped Bell and Peterman. Bell has second-unit director credits on films such as “Assignment Berlin.”

Veep Kevin Cooper will handle oversight of “Mercury” at Digital Domain. DD will produce effects for the film, if its digital production schedule allows.

Ross and DD are producing “Instant Karma” with Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment. U picked the project up in turnaround from DreamWorks last month.

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