ABC plays ‘Middleman’

Gross to exec produce McQuarrie skein

ABC has picked up a drama project to be penned by Oscar-winning scribe Chris McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) about a man who straddles the line between good and evil.

“The Middleman,” set up at Touchstone TV, is a premium script, with a substantial penalty attached. McQuarrie has partnered with Academy Award-nommed producer Matthew Gross, who has a pod deal at the studio. Gross will exec produce, along with Chris and Heather McQuarrie.

Touchstone Television prexy Steve McPherson called McQuarrie “truly one of the amazing writing talents out there. He has such an amazing sense of storytelling.”

Gross called “The Middleman” a “contemporary and unique version of ‘The Equalizer.’ ” In other words, the crooks think he’s a cop — and the cops think he’s a crook.

“Chris has the ability to take a seemingly straightforward concept and turn it on its head,” Gross said.

McQuarrie said he’s been friends with Gross for years and has sought out ways to collaborate with his pal.

“This is as much about working again with Touchstone and ABC as it is about working with Matt Gross,” McQuarrie said. ” ‘The Middleman’ is the perfect fit.”

McQuarrie has developed a couple of projects with Touchstone and ABC that weren’t picked up. McPherson said he’s hoping “The Middleman” will change things.

“It’s truly been a frustration for me to have developed so many good projects with Chris that haven’t seen their way to air,” he said.

On the feature side, McQuarrie penned the thriller “Iron Curtain,” which he’ll direct for Intermedia.

McQuarrie also is rewriting the script “Hammer Down” for DreamWorks and producer Barry Josephson. He won the original screenplay Oscar in 1996 for “Usual Suspects.”

As for Gross, the producer is also developing the ABC pilot script “Cats & Dogs,” along with writer John Scott Shepard. His credits also include producing the feature “Joe Somebody.”

The McQuarries are repped by ICM, while Gross is repped by Karl Austen.

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