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.

More Film

  • Beware of Children

    First Trailer Released for Venice Days' Entry 'Beware of Children' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the first trailer for Dag Johan Haugeruds’ politically and socially charged drama “Beware of Children,” which premieres as part of Venice Film Festival’s Venice Days section. We also speak to Norwegian producer Yngve Saether about the film. The pic, which is being sold at Venice by Picture Tree [...]

  • The Tower animated film about Palestinians

    ‘The Tower’ Animation Wins Japan's Skip City Festival

    “The Tower,” Mats Grorud’s animation about the plight of the Palestinians, as viewed through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl in Beirut, won the grand prize in the international competition at the 16th edition of Skip City International D-Cinema Festival. The film also scooped the section’s audience award. The Skip City festival, which launched in [...]

  • For web story

    Transgender Immigrant Pic 'Lingua Franca,' Thriller 'Only Beasts' to Bow at Venice Days

    New York-based Filipina filmmaker Isabel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca,” about a transgender immigrant, is among 11 competition entries, all world premieres, that will launch from the Venice Film Festival’s independently run Venice Days section. The only U.S. entry set to compete in the section modeled on Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, “Lingua Franca” is Sandoval’s third work. It [...]

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content