20th Wins Bidding War For Imagine’s Survival Thriller ‘Whalefall’; Brian Duffield To Co-Write & Direct

EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation with multiple studios bidding, 20th Century Studios has reeled in theatrical distribution rights to Imagine Entertainment’s thriller Whalefall, based on the recently published novel by bestseller Daniel Kraus.

Aboard to co-write, direct, and produce the film is Brian Duffield, who has a strong relationship with 20th President Steve Asbell and his team, following their work together on the acclaimed sci-fi thriller No One Will Save You. Imagine snapped the book up for development in a pre-emptive film rights deal last summer, as we were first to report.

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Published last summer by MTV Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Whalefall is described as The Martian meets 127 Hours. The book is about a scuba diver in search of his deceased father’s remains who gets swallowed by an eighty-foot, sixty-ton sperm whale and has only one hour to escape before his oxygen runs out. After giving up on life, the young man is surprised to find a reason to live in the most dangerous and unlikely of places.

Kraus will co-write, with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Allan Mandelbaum to produce for Imagine Entertainment, alongside Duffield. Previously producing Duffield’s No One Will Save You for 20th, it was the latter who brought the book into Imagine. Exec producers on the Whalefall feature are Richard Abate and Will Rowbotham of 3 Arts Entertainment. J.R. Young is overseeing the project for 20th Century Studios.

Duffield wrote, directed and produced No One Will Save You, an almost entirely dialogue-free sci-fi thriller in which an exiled, anxiety-ridden homebody, played by Kaitlyn Dever, must battle an alien who’s found its way into her home. Released on Hulu last fall, the film was the most streamed in the U.S. across all platforms during the week ending September 24 and earned Duffield a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Movie Made for Television, along with a WGA Award nomination in the TV & New Media Motion Picture category.

Duffield made his feature directorial debut with the Paramount genre-bender Spontaneous, starring Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer, also co-writing Paramount’s Love and Monsters, 20th’s Underwater starring Kristen Stewart, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got a Gun. A producer on Elizabeth Banks’ Uni hit Cocaine Bear, as well as the upcoming Borderline, directed by Jimmy Warden, Duffield additionally wrote and exec produced Netflix’s horror comedy The Babysitter, directed by McG, and returned to executive produce its sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen.

Recently landing 14 Emmy nominations for an assortment of projects and welcoming Jeb Brody as president of its features division, Imagine Entertainment is coming off of the Australia shoot for Eden, Ron Howard’s survival thriller that stars Sydney Sweeney, Ana de Armas, Vanessa Kirby, and Jude Law.

Duffield is repped by UTA, Circle of Confusion, and Behr Abramson Levy Johnson.

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