HEAT VISION

New Line Wins Olivia Wilde's 'Booksmart' Follow-Up, Thriller 'Don't Worry Darling'

It was one of the most competitive auctions of the year.
Olivia Wilde   |   Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic
It was one of the most competitive auctions of the year.

Olivia Wilde has chosen New Line as the home for her next directorial project, a period thriller titled Don’t Worry, Darling.

In what shaped up to be one of the biggest deals of the year, New Line won the project with the promise of an aggressive and lucrative backend rarely seen in these modern movie times.

But it’s a deal facilitated by the desire to work with Wilde, the actress who made her helming debut with Booksmart, the wildly praised coming-of-age movie released in May. While the pic didn’t burn up the box office, it made Wilde the hottest filmmaker of the season, and she capitalized on it by coming on board Darling.

Plot details are slim, but it is known that the project centers on a 1950s housewife who uncovers a disturbing truth to her perfect life. The script was originally written by Shane and Carey Van Dyke, but will now be rewritten by Wilde’s cohort Katie Silberman.

Wilde will helm and star in the pic, and will also produce with Silberman and Roy Lee and Miri Yoon of Vertigo Entertainment.

Sources say that Wilde and her team, which included her reps at CAA, presented a term sheet to interested parties, which quickly turned out to be almost every studio, streamer and financier in town. Meetings were held Friday and early this week, with Wilde making a thoughtful and belabored decision that lasted days longer than anyone anticipated. In the end, the deal came down to Netflix and New Line. Despite these digital times, a theatrical release was one of the factors, as was New Line's track record of making elevated genre films such as The Conjuring and It. (Executive vp Daria Cercek and creative exec Celia Khong will oversee the project for the company.)

But it wasn't the only one.

The terms of the moviemaking weren’t so outsized. The asking budget is in the $20 million range. There are fees for acting and directing. There is what some are calling a kill fee for the original writers and a fee for Silberman for commencement and delivery of her draft (usually when a company picks a script, the writers' deal calls for a step to write an additional draft, but in this case, Wilde is jumping right in with a rewrite by Silberman).

Where the deal veers into rare territory is in the backend. Sources say that the filmmakers and producers stand to get 50 percent in the profit participation, which kicks in when the film breaks even.

A deal like this, observers say, hasn't been seen since Warner Bros. made The Hangover, the 2009 comedy directed by Todd Phillips. The filmmaker got a 30 percent backend deal, but that was only after the studio made budget cuts in order to grant Phillips' wish of casting then non-stars such as Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. Phillips at that time was already a filmmaker with several movies, including the hit Old School, under his belt.

Partially spurring Wilde's deal were aggressive overtures by Netflix, which was brandishing a buyout in the $20 million range.

One executive involved in the process said the bidding war "speaks to the lack of good material out there. Anything that is unique will generate interest."

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