Lemke hits H’w’d with 2-pic pitch

Darren Lemke, who until February was wrangling shopping carts at a ShopRite in Carlstad, N.J., is now a half-million dollars richer, having sold two pitches to Touchstone for Tony Scott to direct.

The price for both is an estimated $500,000. JD Prods.’ Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher are producing. The first pitch is “Undertow,” the search for the black box after Air Force One is blown out of the sky, and the second is an untitled sci-fi thriller about a successful corporate assassin who is hunted by a younger clone of himself, created by a genetic engineering company.

The 27-year-old scribe has been writing screenplays since he was 15, but his scripts hadn’t gained attention until he gave a script called “Cherry Poppers” to Salvatore Capone, a friend who worked for director Joe Dante’s company Renfield Prods.

Capone, in turn, gave it to JD Prods. creative executive Rick Benattar, who read it and passed it on to JD principals Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher.

JD Prods. flew Lemke out to L.A. about three weeks ago and asked him to work on some pitches.

Lemke, who was agentless, then drew the attention of UTA, ICM and Endeavor. He eventually signed with Charlie Ferraro and Jeremy Zimmer at UTA and attorney Craig Emanuel.

“It’s beyond words and it hasn’t hit me yet,” Lemke said. “I always thought I had two talents: pushing up shopping carts and writing. I had no middle ground. Going out to Los Angeles is like visiting Oz. People want to look at my scripts and talk to me. I mean I even met Tony Scott. I’m somewhere over the rainbow.”

JD Prods. is currently in pre-production on the Ben Stiller starrer “Permanent Midnight” and just wrapped “Apt Pupil” for Phoenix and TriStar Pictures.

Capone and Benattar will co-produce both pitches.

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