The studio is doubling down on the 23-year-old British actor by casting him as the young lead in its potential spy franchise
Universal Pictures is doubling down on its “Unbroken” star Jack O'Connell, who is in final negotiations for the younger lead in the studio's prized spy movie “Section 6,” multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap.
The studio acquired Aaron Berg's red-hot spec script in a spirited bidding war back in October. It was Berg's first sale, and sources pegged the deal at $1.2 million.
Universal beat Sony for the project because the studio included progress-to-production language in its offer to separate itself from the rest of the herd.
The historical spy thriller follows the World War I-era formation of British intelligence agency MI6 and its first director, Sir George Mansfield Cummings, who served as the inspiration for M in the “James Bond” series.
Not only does Universal think “Section 6” has the potential to launch a hit franchise, but the studio believes in rising star O'Connell, whose performance as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie‘s “Unbroken” is expected to garner awards buzz.
Last fall, several top filmmakers expressed interest in “Section 6” though no directors are currently involved with the project, as the studio will commence its search soon.
Lawrence Grey, who developed the script with Berg, will produce with Marc Platt and Adam Siegel of Marc Platt Productions.
Universal's Jeff Kirschenbaum was instrumental in making the deal for “Section 6,” and the studio's executives Jon Mone and Sara Scott will oversee the project for Universal.
O'Connell nearly played a spy once before, as he was in the mix to star in Matthew Vaughn's “The Secret Service,” though the project conflicted with the long shoot for “Unbroken.”
O'Connell, who next stars in WB's sequel “300: Rise of an Empire,” has recently earned rave reviews for his performances in the upcoming dramas “Starred Up” and '71.” The 23-year-old British actor's previous feature credits include the genre films “Eden Lake,” “Harry Brown” and “Tower Block,” and he also starred on the hit series “Skins.” He's represented by CAA, Conway van Gelder Grant and attorney Robert Offer.