Commercials helmer hired for feature

Thor Freudenthal has been hired to direct “They Came From Upstairs,” which Barry Josephson is producing via his Josephson Entertainment banner for 20th Century Fox.

Principal production is slated to begin in May.

Pic was one of the biggest spec sales of last year — Fox plunked down $1.75 million against $2.25 million for the screenplay by British scribe Mark Burton (“Madagascar,” “Wallace & Gromit”).

The story centers on a group of kids defending their vacation home in Maine from aliens who have invaded from upstairs.

Josephson was turned on to Freudenthal when he saw the director’s commercials reel, which featured national ads for Ritz Crackers, Nike and Reebok, among others. Also featured was Freudenthal’s Sundance short “Motel” — a witty, noirish piece about a guy who checks into a motel where weird things happen.

Josephson was struck by the tone and humor of Freudenthal’s work, which reminded him of “Men in Black,” a pic he oversaw when he was prexy of production at Columbia Pictures.

Furthermore, Freudenthal “had worked with children and teen themes in his commercials, which thematically worked for this movie,” Josephson said.

Freudenthal also has experience in creature design, something he’ll be doing for “They Came From Upstairs.”

Fox exec VP Lisa Ellzey is overseeing the project for the studio.

Freudenthal has two screenplays set up that he co-wrote and is attached to direct: “C.E.O.” at Alcon Entertainment, which Sid Ganis is producing, and “Dead Ever After,” which Luc Besson is producing for Europa Corp.

Fox-based Josephson is a producer with Barry Sonnenfeld on Disney’s “Enchanted,” starring Amy Adams and James Marsden. He’s also developing the Untitled Air Guitar Project for DreamWorks, with Steve Brill onboard to direct.

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