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'Arrival' Producers FilmNation and Shawn Levy's 21 Laps Reteam for Sci-Fi Film 'The Message' (Exclusive)

Based on a short story by acclaimed writer Ken Liu, 'The Message' centers on an archeologist whose job is to investigate and preserve the legacy of extinct civilizations on distant planets and who is reunited with the teenage daughter he never knew he had.
Shawn Levy (left), Aaron Ryder   |   Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Rich Fury/Getty Images
Based on a short story by acclaimed writer Ken Liu, 'The Message' centers on an archeologist whose job is to investigate and preserve the legacy of extinct civilizations on distant planets and who is reunited with the teenage daughter he never knew he had.

Following in the footsteps of their best picture Oscar nominee Arrival, FilmNation Entertainment and 21 Laps have acquired big-screen rights to Ken Liu’s sci-fi short story The Message.

The story centers on an archeologist whose job is to investigate and preserve the legacy of extinct civilizations on distant planets and who is reunited with the teenage daughter he never knew he had. As they explore a mysterious ruin with a cryptic message written on it, they discover their own relationship as well as a secret that will forever change their lives.

One of the most prominent sci-fi and fantasy authors of his generation, Liu has won Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy awards for his work, as well as top international honors in Japan, Spain and France, where he enjoys a huge fan base.

21 Laps’ Shawn Levy and Dan Levine and FilmNation’s Aaron Ryder will produce The Message. FilmNation is financing and will handle worldwide sales. The search for a director and screenwriter is underway.

“Our collaboration with FilmNation on Arrival was a true joy," Levy and Levine said Wednesday in a statement. "We couldn’t be more excited about working with them again on yet another grounded, provocative and emotionally resonant piece of science fiction.”

Added Ryder: “The interest level for smart, emotional sci-fi is at an all-time high, and we can’t wait to bring Ken’s story to life.”

Liu's literary output has become red-hot in Hollywood as of late. His novels, such as The Grace of Kings, and short fiction including The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories have been acquired for screen adaptation. His most recent work includes Good Hunting, which served as the basis for an episode of Netflix’s breakout adult animated series Love, Death + Robots, and AMC’s upcoming Pantheon, which Craig Silverstein (Bones, Nikita) will executive produce. Pantheon is adapted from an interconnected series of short stories written by Liu.

FilmNation, the company behind such independently financed breakouts as The Big Sick and Looper, is off to a busy 2019, with the Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling comedy Late Night currently in theaters and the Julianne Moore starrer Gloria Bell, which opened to one of the highest per-screen averages of the year. On the horizon, FilmNation has the Benedict Cumberbatch-led spy thriller Ironbark; Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel; and the Jude Law starrer The Nest. The company is currently in production on its first TV series, I Know This Much Is True, at HBO and has several others in development, including House of the Spirits at Hulu. FilmNation recently announced the launch of its U.K.-based TV production company with Nordic Entertainment Group.

21 Laps will launch the third season of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things on July 4. On the film front, the company is currently in production on Free Guy, which Levy is directing and stars Ryan Reynolds. 21 Laps is also teaming with director Jonathan Entwistle on I Am Not Okay With This, which is currently shooting in Pittsburgh for Netflix. The company also is in postproduction on Paramount's Monster Problems, toplined by Dylan O’Brien.

FilmNation's Alison Cohen and Sarah Vacchiano negotiated the Message deal alongside Angela Cheng Caplan and Russell Galen on behalf of Liu.

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