Late last night, the news broke that Universal was moving ahead with Ballerina, a female-driven, La Femme Nikita-esque spy thriller the studio hopes they can use to expand the spies-n-headshots universe established by the John Wick franchise.
That Universal would be keen to expand the John Wick universe is not surprising - John Wick 2 went a long way towards doing that, and the forthcoming John Wick TV series (based in and around that franchise's spy hotel, the Continental) will do the same - but it was surprising to learn who'd written Ballerina's screenplay.
Says The Hollywood Reporter:
"The deal marks the first sale for Shay Hatten, a 23-year-old scribe who idolizes Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) and is currently working as a writer's assistant for Robert Downey Jr.’s production company, Team Downey."
If you're thinking the name Shay Hatten sounds familiar, you might recall him as the genius who wrote last year's Maximum King!, the wholly unfilmable "true story" dramatizing the making of Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive. That script landed Hatten on last year's Black List, and remains one of the funniest, strangest, most inexplicable scripts this writer has come across in a very long time (seriously, if you can track down a copy of Maximum King!, it comes with my highest recommendation).
On the surface, Ballerina sounds like another in a long line of La Femme Nikita riffs (THR says it's a lot like that film, "but with a more pulpy, hyper-stylized bent a la Quentin Tarantino or Matthew Vaughn"), and it's easy to imagine how Universal might retrofit it to play into John Wick's already-established world. But Hatten's involvement elevates the entire enterprise, and we're now very curious to see where this one goes.
Nothing further to report at this time, but we'll be keeping a close eye on Ballerina as it works its way through production. In the meantime: any of you folks read Maximum King? If so, feel free to back me up on its greatness in the comments below.