Screen Talk: Royal flush

Fox Searchlight has marked a comedy spec script from Easy A writer Bert Royal with a gold star.

The 20th Century Fox production arm has optioned Royal's script A Thousand Words or Less, set against the backdrop of a national US essay championship. Shailene Woodley, who stars in ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager in the US, is attached to play one of three teens that get caught up in the contest. Royal is also eyeing the possibility of making his directorial debut with the project.

At the sharp end

Plans are afoot to unsheathe the sword of Afro Samurai on the big screen. The cult hit manga and anime series, for which Samuel L Jackson voices the main character, is looking to journey to the movies. The Indomina Group, a US and Dominican Republic-based producer and distributor of film, TV and trans-media content, is teaming with Jackson and Gonzo Studios, the company behind the Emmy-winning anime, to produce what would be a live-action adaptation. Afro Samurai blends hip-hop and soul with Japanese elements. Set in a future and feudal Japan, the story follows a man seeking revenge for his father's decapitation at the hands of Justice, a power-seeking man dressed as a cowboy. A 2009 TV movie special won a primetime Emmy, becoming the first anime to be nominated and to win the TV award.

Robot wars

The feature film rights to Voltron, a project based on the 1984 animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe, have been optioned with robotic efficiency by LA production banner Relativity. The Voltron story focuses on five pilots in a battalion of ultra-high-tech Robot Lions, powerful vessels with the ability to form a fearsome mega-weapon known simply as Voltron. The plan is for a live-action, big-screen version of the cartoon series. And no, it's not just like Transformers. Thomas Dean Donnelly (Conan the Barbarian) and Joshua Oppenheimer (Sahara) have been tasked with writing the screenplay about the five young pilots. The original TV series was based on the Japanese anime properties Beast King GoLion and Kikô Kantai Dairugger XV and aired in the US for two years, beginning in 1984. Since then, it's developed a cult following, selling more than 300,000 DVDs and it's had a spin-off with the series Voltron Force.

A star is Horn

It's not what you know; it's whom you know. It can't have hurt actress Cody Horn who has been cast in End of Watch, an independent drama being directed by Training Day writer David Ayer. Horn's dad is former Warner Bros Entertainment president and COO Alan Horn, one of the more famous studio chiefs in recent times. Cody Horn has been cast as a policewoman opposite America Ferrera in this cop drama, which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. End of Watch, penned by Ayer, also features Anna Kendrick.

In Todd we trust

Todd Strauss-Schulson, the director of its upcoming comedy A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, is flavour of the month with New Line. The production house has picked up an untitled action-adventure comedy pitch that Strauss-Schulson is attached to direct. Chris Galletta is writing the script. Strauss-Schulson generated the idea and developed it with Galletta. The plot is being kept under wraps but the setting is Brazil. Galletta previously contributed to the Late Show with David Letterman and his feature Toy's House is set up and casting now. Strauss-Schulson is making his feature directorial debut with Harold & Kumar Christmas, which opens in the US in November. He made a name for himself with comedy shorts and worked on a show for MTV Asia. He's garnering quite a following with studio execs looking for directors capable of handling comedy with aplomb.