Alcon takes 'Prisoners'

Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale not part of deal

"Prisoners" will be set free.

Alcon Entertainment has acquired Aaron Guzikowski's hot spec with a plan to fast-track production and release the movie in October 2010. The company, which will pay mid-six figures against just over $1 million, has bested Summit and Relativity, who had been among the companies circling the project but who were not willing to commit to the fast-track schedule.

But in a twist, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, who had previously been attached to the dark thriller, will no longer be part of the package. Producers will now look to cast new stars as well as continue the search for a director, with all of those elements expected to be on board by early fall.

The budget is expected to be in the $30-$40 million range for Guzikowski's tale, which looks at a small-town man whose daughter is kidnapped and responds in a vigilante fashion by imprisoning a neighbor he suspects committed the crime. Wahlberg was to play the father and Bale the big-city cop investigating the crimes.

The script, which Guzikowski developed for several years with management firm Madhouse Entertainment, created a stir this winter when it went out to studios. A number of them were interested in buying the project, to which Wahlberg was then attached, on the spot. But Madhouse and Guzikoswki's team at Endeavor were interested in putting a director on the script before selling it.

A number of helmers them met on it. Bryan Singer was among the helmers who were highly interested, with several outlets even reporting he was on board. But budget considerations prevented the director from being hired.

The New York-based Guzikowsi is a previous unknown who until the sale last week was working as an assistant at a New York advertising firm. At a time when studios are delaying projects or not buying them at all, the sale -- which will see a project go from the peddling of a spec to a finished film on the screen in fewer than 18 months -- is highly anomalous.

Alcon's Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson will produce "Prisoners," as will 8:38 Prods.' Kira Davis (who brought the script to Alcon) and Madhouse's Adam Kolbrenner, with Madhouse's Robyn Meisinger exec producing.

Alcon is the producer behind Christopher Nolan's "Insomina" and upcoming Denzel Washgton thriller "The Book of Eli." The company has a put deal with Warners which allows the banner to release a minimum number of movies via Warners every year.