Universal Pictures Wins Bidding War for Flight Attendant's Debut Novel (Exclusive)

FALLING-Book-Cover-and-inset-of-Author-TJ-Newman
Courtesy of AVID Reader Press

'Falling,' which has been described as "Speed at 35,000 feet," sold for seven figures.

Last week, a onetime flight attendant landed a seven-figure book deal -- this week, she nabbed a seven-figure film one.

Screen rights to T.J. Newman’s first thriller, Falling, landed with Universal Pictures following a heated bidding war. Per one well-placed source, the project, which has been described as "Speed at 35,000 feet," sold for a whopping $1.5 million.

Newman is said to have written her debut novel, the first in a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster’s Avid Reader Press, on the backs of airplane napkins and on iPads during her former red-eye route. It centers on a crowded flight from New York to L.A., with 140-plus passengers who don't know that their pilot's family was kidnapped a half-hour before takeoff. Now, in order for his family to live, the pilot must follow orders and crash their plane.

Per sources, Universal beat out a series of other major studios and producers, including familiar names Neil Moritz, Jason Bateman, Matt Reeves and Jerry Bruckheimer. At Universal, executive Matt Reilly is set to oversee the project, with Working Title’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan along with The Story Factory’s Shane Salerno, who reps Newman, on board to produce.

The news comes less than a week after Publisher's Weekly dubbed Newman's literary pact its deal of the week. It also follows nearly a dozen other seven-figure film and TV deals negotiated by The Story Factory, including The Chain, which Edgar Wright is attached to direct at Universal, with Working Title involved there as well.

Falling is set to publish in July. Newman, who's since quit her gig as a flight attendant, is already at work on book two.