U wins spec ‘Disciple Program’ for Wahlberg

Thesp would star and produce; Morten Tyldum directing

In a true Hollywood fairy tale, Universal has won a bidding war with a mid-six-figure bid for Tyler Marceca’s red-hot spec “The Disciple Program,” with Mark Walhberg attached to star and produce.

“Headhunters” helmer Morten Tyldum is on board to direct the pic, which Wahlberg and Steve Levinson will produce through Leverage Entertainment.

Story revolves around a man investigating his wife’s mysterious death only to find out it goes much deeper than he imagined. Marceca’s journey to Hollywood began when he sent “Disciple Program” to influential script reviewer Carson Reeves of Scriptshadow. Reeves was impressed with its professional quality and ended up making “Program” the first amateur-written script in his Top 25.

After hyping the rave review on Twitter, Reeves was inundated by producers and agents asking for the script. With demand high, Reeves told everyone he’d send them the script at the same time in order to keep building the hype, though he eventually relented and sent it to five of his better industry contacts.

Within hours, Reeves had received 30 emails, and Marceca, whose own phone number was on the cover page, was fielding roughly 10 calls an hour. Neither Reeves nor Marceca knew what to do.

It wasn’t long before Warner Bros. offered to attach Joel Silver as a producer and its “Hangover” star Bradley Cooper to topline.

Just before the deal closed, WME stepped in and signed Marceca. The agency stopped the deal, looking to package it internally with star client Wahlberg and Tyldum, who Wahlberg had expressed interest in working with after seeing “Headhunters.” Marceca and Reeves waited patiently for nearly two months while working with Tyldum and Wahlberg to develop a new draft of the script that features several changes, including a new action set piece.

WME took the script out on Monday and it sold late on Friday, with Universal trumping several suitors for the property.

Wahlberg, who is repped by WME and Leverage Management, next stars in Universal’s “Ted.” Tyldum and Marceca are repped by WME and Anonymous Content.

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