Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In a $500,000 against $800,000 deal, Warner Bros is finalizing a deal to acquire Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses, the Matthew Aldrich spec that Deadline told you yesterday had five bids on the table. The deal is just happening, and I expect the next development to be that Matt Damon is working on this picture as its star and also eyeing it as potentially the one on which he’ll make his feature directing debut. He will also produce through his WB-based company Pearl Street, with partner Ben Affleck, Chris Moore and Drew Vinton also producing.

This has been a spec auction with some big twists and turns, because one of the bids that rivaled the one from Warner Bros was made by Damon and Moore, with money from a private financier. Other bids came in from Paramount (with JJ Abrams attached to produce), Fox (for Peter Chernin), Mandate, Walter Parkes through his discretionary fund, with Relativity Media and others also in the mix.

The script focuses on a man who goes on the lam with his daughter, his accomplice on a three-state crime spree.

CAA, Aldrich’s manager Jewerl Ross and attorney Jamie Feldman were working on the auction all day yesterday and by last night, it looked like Damon and Moore would land the deal, but this morning Warner Bros upped the ante. Since the studio has a first-look deal that Damon made with his and Moore’s former Live Planet partner Affleck, it shouldn’t be a difficult maneuver to plug Damon right into the center of the film.

This is a strong spec sale at a time when not a lot of money is being paid in the marketplace for scripts that don’t come with attachments. Adrich said that he wrote his script on and off, putting it down when he was hired on assignment and picking it back up. “The spec road wasn’t really the plan, I finished the draft, gave it to my manager and new agents, who loved it, and the idea was to attach a director,” he said. “It took off from there.” While specs are considered the riskiest form of employment right now, Aldrich said it has worked well for him.

“The one film I’ve had produced was a spec, so I guess I’m batting 2 for 2,” he said. “Specs are turning out to be a pretty good business model. But the idea wasn’t to make a deal, it was to make a movie. The script is not high concept, it’s a smallish, very personal, dark but playful road movie about a father and daughter.”

The reason they were heading for the independent offer, according to Ross, was becasue they wanted to protect the vision of the film and feared that would be difficult at a studio. But they sparked to the continued involvement of Damon, who has pledged just that.

“When one of the biggest movie stars in the world, who also happens to be an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, gets on the phone with your client and offers to protect the writer’s vision and opens his hand to be a creative partner, it’s hard to say no,” Ross said. “The money becomes secondary. This script is not the obvious studio movie. There are no explosions. It will require delicate handling. Avoiding years of development hell was our goal.”

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