THE scene opens with a herd of duckbill dinosaurs gorging on kelp. A Tyrannosaurus rex, towering 22 feet, suddenly appears, unleashing a blood curdling roar as its prey scatter, but one duckbill dinosaur remains trapped in the water.
The T-Rex crashes through the surf and ruthlessly rips him from the sea. It suddenly stops -- sensing a powerful presence in the water. Its red reptilian eyes, glowing like lasers, scan the ocean. A massive creature hidden in its own towering wave explodes out of the water. The T-Rex is rocketed off its feet with an anguished roar, flipped onto its back with its feet in the air and spun like a cylinder as it is dragged beneath the water. A slick pool of blood floats on the surface.
We've witnessed a prehistoric homicide but the identity of the undersea killer remains a complete mystery . . . ."
Thus begins "Meg," a screenplay by Shane Salerno based on author Steve Alten's 1997 bestselling pulp novel about a Carcharodon megalodon, the 80-foot, 70,000-pound shark that roamed the Earth's oceans millions of years ago. When the book was first published, Alten figured that his story about a prehistoric being that mysteriously resurfaces from geothermal layers of the oceans' deepest gorge -- the Mariana Trench -- to terrorize the modern world would make for a great summer popcorn movie, "Jaws" for a new generation. So did Hollywood.
But a dozen years later, Alten, who resides in Florida, is still looking for a studio to make a film of "Meg," after Disney's Hollywood Pictures and then New Line Cinema each developed the project but ultimately passed on producing it. "I thought the movie would have been out and we'd be in sequels now," Alten said. "We think we have a billion-dollar franchise. . . . Unfortunately, the timing hasn't worked out."
In recent weeks, however, a new financier has stepped forward with plans to finally bring "Meg" to the big screen. Apelles Publishing Inc. of Abington, Va., has optioned the rights from Alten with veteran Hollywood producers Lawrence Gordon ("Die Hard") and Lloyd Levin ("Boogie Nights"), along with Virginia-based film financing consultant Belle Avery, set to produce. Gordon and Levin have a track record of taking projects put in turnaround at one studio and successfully setting them up at another, the latest examples being "Watchmen" at Warner Bros. and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" at Universal.