Lionsgate has won a bidding war to pick up a female-centric spec action script titled Ballerina that will serve as a platform for a possible John Wick spinoff.

Basil Iwanyk, whose Thunder Road banner is behind the hit Wick action franchise starring Keanu Reeves, will produce Ballerina.

While Lionsgate is relishing the idea of a franchise expansion, the screenwriter behind Ballerina is living out a Hollywood dream.

The deal marks the first sale for Shay Hatten, a 23-year-old scribe who idolizes Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) and is currently working as a writer's assistant for Robert Downey Jr.’s production company, Team Downey. Hatten has been on an upward Hollywood trajectory since graduating from Loyola Marymount’s School of Film and Television in 2016. He snagged an internship at Team Downey while writing a black comedy script, Maximum King!, in his spare time, and that script led to representation at CAA and ended up on last year’s Black List and Blood List. Hatten was then upped by Downey to writer's assistant, providing script notes and coverage on the company's many projects while tackling what would become Ballerina on nights and weekends. 

Ballerina has been described as being in the vein of La Femme Nikita, the 1990 female-centric assassin movie that helped launch the career of filmmaker Luc Besson, but with a more pulpy, hyper-stylized bent a la Quentin Tarantino or Matthew Vaughn.

Details are being kept under the tutu, but the story is known to center on a young woman raised as an assassin who must hunt down the other assassins that murdered her family.

The script hit the studios last week, with Warner Bros. and Universal also vying for it, according to sources. Lionsgate saw in it potential to further grow its Wick franchise (a third movie is now in the works).

Hatten’s Maximum King! is a black comedy that takes a fictional look at how in 1985 Stephen King wrote and directed his horror movie Maximum Overdrive. He is repped by CAA and Lee Stobby Entertainment.

Iwanyk is a producer on The Current War, the upcoming movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon that is set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Also on his résumé is Wind River, the Jeremy Renner thriller that serves as the directorial debut of Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan.