EXCLUSIVE: Screenwriter David Hayter and his producer partner, Benedict Carver, have set their Dark Hero Studios label into a two-year TV deal with E1 Entertainment. This follows a deal Dark Hero to become the creative catalyst for Push, the TV series based on the feature film that’s being jointly developed with Summit Entertainment and E1. Though that film starred Chris Evans—recently named Captain America—and revolved around people with paranormal powers who band together to take down a government agency, it grossed just $31 million and wasn’t critically beloved. But films like Highlander and Buffy The Vampire Slayer fared much better in their TV transfers. Hayter, best known for the first two X-Men films and Watchmen, will write the series pilot and E1’s John Morayniss and Noreen Halpern are exec producers. The Dark Hero duo will bring all its TV project ideas to E!, and will take off space in the company’s headquarters.
UPDATE: Aside from an E1 first look deal that gives them a TV home, Hayter and Carver have found the backing that will finally give Hayter a chance to become a director, after a decade of futility on projects he generated as a writer.
Thanks to an overseas distribution deal made with French company TF1 and financing by Winchester, Hayter is looking at a July start on Wolves, an $18 million budget thriller that nearly got going once before at Crystal Sky until the credit crunch. Hayter describes the picture as “Twilight with a bit more bite to it, and without abstinence.” Hayter said he de-constructed past werewolf films, took out the mythology that haunted the screen adaptations, and found a way to make it a metaphor for a teen maturing sexually into adulthood, at the age when young men howl at the moon. While Hayter had Thomas Dekker and Ray Stevenson lined up for the Crystal Sky version, casting is just getting underway. Canada-based E1 will handle Canadian distribution on Wolves.
Aside from the first go-around with Wolves, Hayter got close to the director chair two other times. There was the Marvel Comics heroine Black Widow, and Watchmen. His script work on films like the first two X-Men and his recurring voice actor role as Snake in the Metal Gear Solid videogame series, Hayter is a fanboy fixture and a Comic-con fave. While studios want to hire him as a writer, nobody wants to take shots on first time directors. He got close on Black Widow, until female vigilante films like Aeon Flux caused Lionsgate to scrap the project. Hayter, who named his newborn daughter Natasha after the character, was devastated. Watchmen was worse, because it was the slow torture of four studios in five years, before Hayter finally got the hint and the Zack Snyder directed it.
“That was extremely disappointing, starting with Universal,” Hayter said. “Then it went to Revolution, where Joe Roth finally told Larry, `I just can’t give $80 million to a first-time director.’ Maybe I should have stuck with it for 10 years, but Zack got the material.”
Between Carver, and Hayter’s reps at UTA and Benderspink , they’ve gone outside the studios to create the opportunity for Hayter to become a hyphenate. He still takes script doctor gigs, but is focused on writing originals to direct. He and Carver are also producing a lot of his ideas and projects like Deadworld, a zombie pic with Bill Mechanic.
“ I don’t want to put my heart and soul into something original and then hand it off, unless it’s a filmmaker like Bryan Singer,” Hayter said. “When people offer me something and say maybe you’ll get a chance to direct, I know that what that means is, hell no, you’re not directing this.”