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Gerard Johnstone, who directed the New Zealand horror movie Housebound, is on board to helm the project, which has a script by Akela Cooper, a writer-supervising producer who has worked on Luke Cage and American Horror Story.
Wan and Blum will produce the feature, which is aiming to begin shooting this fall.
M3GAN comes together on the eve of Comic-Con International: San Diego, the annual pop culture convention, at which both Blum and Wan will be present. Blum has two movies there — Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s sequel to Unbreakable and Split, and a reboot of Halloween — as well as television show The Purge, while Wan is taking part in ScareDiego, which will highlight the latest from his Conjuring horror movie universe as well as Aquaman at Warner Bros.’ mega Hall H panel.
The two have a longstanding friendship and relationship from the making of 2010’s Insidious, the surprise horror hit that Wan directed and Blum produced and which helped put both on the road to success.
“I had such a great time working together with Jason on Insidious, a film that did a lot of good for both of us,” Wan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t forget where I started from and I’m grateful and appreciative of Jason. We’ve been looking for something to collaborate on again since.”
(Not that they’ve been apart since. Blum occasionally submits scripts or films for Wan to peruse. “If you have an hour of James’ time, its worth is incalculable. No one is better at looking and giving notes than he,” says the Purge producer.)
Cooper’s script tells of a brilliant toy company roboticist who uses artificial intelligence to develop M3GAN, a life-like doll programmed to emotionally bond with her newly orphaned niece. But when the doll’s programming works too well, she becomes overprotective of her new friend…with terrifying results.
Part of the origin of the project lies at Wan’s Atomic Monster Productions, where he and his execs were kicking around film ideas and landed upon one about a killer doll. Wan had already flirted with creepy and possessed dolls in movies such as Annabelle, but this idea could resonate with audiences in a whole new way.
“Pretty much the concept is about embracing technology too much and relying too much on it,” Wan says. “And what happens with technology runs amok. It’s a commentary on the world we live in and it feels relevant.”
Blum says that M3GAN will have black humor in it, one reason the producers chose Johnstone for the directing job: “We needed someone who can do the thrills and set pieces, but who also has a cheeky approach.”
Michael Clear, of Wan’s Atomic Monster banner, will executive produce with Judson Scott shepherding for the company. Blumhouse’s Couper Samuelson will exec produce, while Ryan Turek will oversee for the banner.
Johnstone is repped by CAA, George Davis of Nelson Davis LLP and Ken Kamins of Key Creatives. Cooper is repped by ICM Partners.