Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has made its first acquisition of a finished film, buying U.S.  distribution rights to The Mechanic, the remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film that stars Jason Staham as a hitman who trains an apprentice who has a connection to one of his mentor’s victims. Simon West directed and Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland also star.

The film was made by Millennium Films, which also financed the $80 million Sly Stallone-directed actioner The Expendables, being released Friday by Lionsgate. That film also has Staham in its action hero ensemble. Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino scripted The Mechanic.

The remake was produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff—who produced the original—along with David Winkler, William Chartoff and Rene Besson. The Millennium team of Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and Joe Gatta are executive producers.

“The original was a big success, especially overseas where it has had a long life,” Winkler said. “MGM had the rights but nobody really saw it as the character study that we did, until Avi Lerner came in and financed it. A lot of independent companies were interested after we held a test screening, but I worked with CBS’s Amy Baer while she was at Columbia, and we trust each other. CBS needed a film, they held a research screening on their own dime  that did even better than the first time, and there is a lot of enthusiasm.”

CBS Films formed with the strategy to generate most of its own films, but pickups were always envisioned as a way to broaden its release slate.

“The right acquisitions have always been a part of our plan and in The Mechanic we have a strong intelligent action thriller,” CBS Films prexy/CEO Baer said in a statement.

Winkler is also producing for Millennium Trespass, the Joel Schumacher-directed drama that has come together for a fall start, with Nicolas Cage starring with Nicole Kidman. Cage briefly dropped out of the film but came back.