Warner Bros. has picked up an untitled workplace comedy by Jason Filardi for Zac Efron to star in and produce. Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot are in negotiations to produce via their Offspring Entertainment banner.
Attaching himself to the Filardi workplace comedy is the latest move for Efron, who set up his production shingle at Warners in February but has quietly been putting the pieces together with his manager, Alchemy Entertainment's Jason Barrett.
The company now has a name -- Ninjas Runnin' Wild Prods. -- and has staffed up, with former Fox executive Jason Young coming aboard as head of development and to act as point person at NRW. Young spent five years at Fox, working on "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Live Free or Die Hard" and "Max Payne," among other movies.
Angie Edgar, a former assistant and creative executive at Alchemy, has been tapped to act as NRW's creative executive.
Barrett will oversee NRW's operations with Efron.
The Filardi workplace comedy, on which Barrett also will be a producer, is a reuniting of the team behind "17 Again," Efron's high school body-switch comedy that grossed $136 million worldwide last year. The film allowed Efron to move beyond his "High School Musical" roots while trying to build on his core audience.
In addition to that comedy, the following projects are in development at NRW:
-- "Art of the Steal," set up at Warners three weeks ago, has Kevin McCormick's Langley Park Prods. producing with NRW. The project, centering on a master thief, is based on the Wired magazine article by Joshua Bearman; the producers are out to writers.
-- "Einstein Theory," a time-travel story from Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski also is set up at Warners. Mark Gordon, Bryan Zuriff and "Get Him to the Greek" director Nick Stoller are producing what is intended to be an Efron vehicle.
-- "Fire" is based on the Brian Michael Bendis graphic novel about a college student recruited to take part in a special CIA training program. Bendis is writing the adaptation, set up at Universal, with Neal Moritz and David Engel producing. Efron and Barrett are executive producing.
-- "Snabba cash" is a remake of the Swedish thriller directed by Daniel Espinosa. The project is an Atlas Entertainment-NRW co-production, with Efron producing alongside Chuck Roven, Richard Suckle and Fredik Wikstrom. Michael Hjorth and Barrett are executive producing.
Separate from NRW, Efron and Barrett also are involved in producer capacities with Leslie Dixon's untitled thriller set up at Mandate. Barrett is producing with Greg Shapiro and Dixon, and Efron executive produces with Mandate's Nathan Kahane.
In a time in which much of the industry is cutting back or contracting, NRW's strategy is unusual for its broad base. The company has been aggressive in finding vehicles and opportunities for Efron, rather than waiting for the studios to come calling.
It also has been transitioning the 22-year old Efron into an adult actor. Such projects as "Fire" and "Snabba" are designed to expand his portfolio to include an action thriller and an edgy drama while also allowing him to work with such Hollywood players as Roven and Moritz.
Efron, also repped by CAA, next stars in the coming-of-age drama "Charlie St. Cloud," which Universal opens July 30.