David Ayer spins DreamWorks tale

Will write screenplay for 'Deep Sea Cowboys'

David Ayer has been hired to write the screenplay for the DreamWorks Studios film "Deep Sea Cowboys."

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are producing through their K/O Prods., Holly Bario and Jonathan Eirich are overseeing for the studio, and Pete Chiarelli and Steven Puri are overseeing for K/O.

Ayer's script will be based on Joshua Davis' article in Wired last year about a salvage crew attempting to save a capsized Japanese cargo ship. The real-time action scenario will explore how a tightknit crew races to beat the clock and potential drowning to save the ship's dangerous cargo and claim its reward.

"It's only the most dangerous thing you could possibly do because a sinking ship is like a ticking bomb," Kurtzman said. "You have to work your way through an incredibly complicated Rube Goldberg series of problems in 12 hours, or you're dead."

DreamWorks negotiated to take the project when the studio split from Paramount in September, but Paramount retains the option to co-finance and co-distribute "Cowboys." If produced, the film would go out through the Touchstone label at Disney, which this week signed a 30-picture distribution deal with the new DreamWorks.

"Cowboys" could be a good fit because its appeal to the producers and DreamWorks chairman Steven Spielberg is not dissimilar to that of Disney's blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "National Treasure" films.

"Steven recognized the ability to do a modern-day pirate movie that's tonally very authentic," Kurtzman said. "But it's a pirate movie, for all intents and purposes, smashed together with 'The Dirty Dozen.' Why wouldn't you make that movie?"

As producers, Kurtzman and Orci recently turned out the $173 million-grossing "Eagle Eye" and have "Atlantis Rising" and "Cowboys and Aliens" in development at DreamWorks. As writers, the duo has "Star Trek" flying into theaters in May and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" set for a June release.

Ayer's writing credits include "U-571," "Training Day" and "S.W.A.T.," and he wrote and directed 2006's "Harsh Times." But his experience 20 years ago as a Navy grunt on a Cold War nuclear submarine was the true selling point.

"He is coming at this from such a place of authenticity," Kurtzman said. "When we sat down with him, he had an innate, organic understanding of the story and started pitching out ideas that can only come from someone who has lived this kind of thing."

CAA reps Ayer, Davis, Kurtzman and Orci.