Penn to pen thriller for BermanBraun

Company sets up strong slew of TV contenders

Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun have locked their first big TV deal, snagging superhero-centric feature scribe Zak Penn (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) to develop an hourlong action thriller for their indie shingle.

Via their BermanBraun banner, duo have been busy setting up a slew of smallscreen contenders, including scripts from Blake Herron (“The Bourne Identity”) and newcomers Tim and Tom Mullen (with producer Todd Garner attached to the latter project). Former Warners exec Rachel Kaplan was tapped in spring to head scripted development for the shingle (Daily Variety, April 16).

Company has a rich first-look deal with NBC Universal, but because of the strong interest surrounding Penn’s project, there’s no guarantee the Peacock will automatically land the script.

Penn’s project, dubbed “Section Eight,” is said to be a nonserialized take on the action thriller genre that’s along the lines of “Mission: Impossible” and yet very different from that franchise. Penn developed the idea for the project with scribe Michael Karnow, who brought the idea to Penn. Penn is expected to begin writing the script shortly, even before it’s set up at a network.

For Penn, the move into TV comes as the writer-helmer is at work on a number of upcoming feature assignments. He’s aboard to pen scripts or drafts of “The Avengers” and “The Incredible Hulk.”

In a shift from his popcorn pic prowess, Penn wrote and directed “The Grand,” a poker-themed comedy that screened at Tribeca earlier this year. Woody Harrelson, Ray Romano, David Cross and Jason Alexander are part of the ensemble cast.

Penn’s credits include “Elektra,” “Suspect Zero” and “Behind Enemy Lines.”

Rather than signing writers to blind script or overall deals, Berman and Braun are said to be focusing their energies on specific projects from writers. Duo have declined interview requests, but industry insiders said the company already has developed a multitude of potential TV projects for next season.

Herron script is a one-hour drama that blends elements of “The X-Files” and “The Da Vinci Code.” Herron worked with Braun when the latter was at ABC, developing drama project “The Brothers Grimm.”

In addition to “Bourne Identity,” Herron’s credits include the 1993 indie pic “Skin Art,” which he wrote and directed.

On the comedy front, BermanBraun is working on a half-hour from the Mullen brothers, with Garner producing. Young screenwriters are developing several feature projects, including the potential Sandra Bullock starrer “One of the Guys,” which is set up at 20th Century Fox.

The Mullens are also working on the screenplays “Time Travel for Dummies” (with 20th and Summit producing) and “Strike,” which is set up at Paramount Vantage.

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