Mike Fleming

specEXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures today closed a $1 million spec deal for Mena, a script by Gary Spinelli that has Ron Howard attached to direct. The film will be produced by Doug Davison with Imagine’s Brian Grazer, and with Kim Roth exec producing. This was a hot script auction, with Sony also bidding. Universal took it off the table with a $1 million offer, plus a blind script commitment in a deal brokered by Gersh.

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The spec is a fact-based tale about Barry Seal, a portly pilot who, in the 1980s, was a 300-pound gun runner, and drug trafficker who transported contraband for the CIA and the Medellin cartel. He was eventually shot to death by the latter in Baton Rouge. The title refers to Mena, Arkansas, where a lot of the illegal activity took place, under the noses of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Co-President of Production Peter Cramer will oversee the spec for Universal. Gersh reps the scribe with attorney Howard Abramson.

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Maybe it’s because adult movies have been doing well, and because studios have cut so far back on development, but it’s beginning to feel like this is going to be a good year to sell a spec script.