John Wick was one of the most unexpected hits in recent memory. What seemed like a run-of-the-mill action movie turned into a massive critical and financial success, spawning an even more successful sequel with a third installment in the works. Now Lionsgate is looking to get in on the cinematic universe game and turn a female-led action script called Ballerina into a female-led movie within the John Wick universe.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate won a pretty significant bidding war for the Ballerina script, which was written by newcomer Shay Hatten. Warner Bros. and Universal were also said to be interested, but Lionsgate came out on top. Ballerina was not written as something intended to be in the John Wick universe, but they saw the potential in it and decided this would be a good opportunity to try and give one of their most successful franchises a major shot in the arm with a female-driven spin-off.

Details are largely being kept under wraps with Ballerina, but it is said to "center on a young woman raised as an assassin who must hunt down the other assassins that murdered her family." It was also compared to director Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita, but with a hyper-violent tone akin to directors like Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight) and Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Even if that wasn't intended to be a movie set within the John Wick universe initially, it certainly sounds like this young woman would fit in quite nicely at the Continental Hotel with all of the other assassins from that universe.

As for 23-year-old Shay Hatten, this could wind up being a big deal for him. Prior to the recent sale of Ballerina, he had been working as a writer's assistant for Robert Downey Jr.'s company, Team Downey. He got an internship with the company after graduation from film school and he got a major boost when his dark comedy Maximum King!, which is a fictional take on how Stephen King wrote and directed Maximum Overdrive, made it onto the Black List, which is a list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. He managed to work on Ballerina in his spare time and now he could be looking at a major franchise.

John Wick: Chapter Two made $169 million worldwide earlier this year working from a relatively small budget. If Lionsgate can successfully turn Ballerina into a similarly low-budget spin-off, this could be huge. Given the desire for female-led movies after Wonder Woman and given the feverish desire for studios to make cinematic universes happen right now, this could be a home run. Especially considering that this is one of the more sensible cinematic universe ideas out there right now.

In addition to Ballerina, Lionsgate is also working on John Wick 3, but director Chad Stahelski hasn't yet confirmed whether or not he will direct. They also have plans for a John Wick TV series about The Continental. There was also some talk by David Leitch of a potential crossover with Atomic Blonde, but that doesn't seem overly likely since that upcoming release takes place in the 90s and John Wick exists in the here and now. Ballerina doesn't have any timetable attached in terms of release date or production, but Basil Iwanyk, who handles the John Wick movies via his Thunder Road production company, will produce.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott