NEW YORK (March 5, 2012) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all worldwide rights to SMASHED. The film, directed by James Ponsoldt (OFF THE BLACK), is produced by Jonathan Schwartz (Like Crazy) and Andrea Sperling (Like Crazy) of Super Crispy Entertainment, who were honored at Sundance this year with a Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing, as well as Jennifer Cochis. The film is executive produced by Audrey and Zygi Wilf. SPC previously worked with Sperling on the 2005 feature, THE QUIET. READ MORE »
As the Sundance Film Festival wraps, two films are the prevailing standouts — The Surrogate and Beasts Of The Southern Wild. But Red Lights and Filly Brown have been the titles consistently coming up short along with Lay The Favorite. Sundance founder Robert Redford warned attendees on Day One to explore the fest’s various nooks and crannies before guessing which films would be hits or misses. Here’s my reporting:
The Surrogate, directed by Ben Lewin
This film is the obvious commercial hit and awards contender coming out of Sundance this year and it already caught a $6 million acquisition deal as Deadline reported Monday. This film proves that there are still films that arrive with little fanfare and then break out. Starring Helen Hunt (in a terrific performance) and John Hawkes and William H. Macy, pic centers on a man who is confined to an iron lung and at age 38 makes it a goal to lose his virginity. All the buzz bodes well for Lewin who proves that reinventing yourself is possible at any age. Born in 1946, Lewin has a bevy of TV writing and directing credits with a sprinkling of features like Georgiawhich received two AFI Award nominations way back in 1989.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild directed by Benh Zeitlin
This is the fest’s artistic smash to date. The filmmakers had the “dream” Sundance premiere at the Eccles Theatre complete with a standing ovation and immediate buzz at hobnobbing events. Instantly speculation began about who would snag the film populated by unknown actors. Fox Searchlight did. This is the first film by co-writer/director Benh Zeitlin and the team behind Court 13. ”Court 13 is an ethos we have on approaching a story and production,” Zeitlin told me. “The arc is made through homemade objects, actors that are non-professional, and a crew that is chosen for their courage and art rather than pure skill.”
Your Sister’s Sister directed by Lynn Shelton
This film about grief had its U.S. debut at Sundance after a Toronto fest premiere initiated buzz. Sundance’s comparatively smaller lineup is giving the film some breathing room and good word of mouth for performances by Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, and Mike Birbiglia. The film follows Jack who is grieving over his bother’s loss and heads to his father’s cabin unaware that a woman is already staying there with similar circumstances.
UPDATE, 3:39 PM: Tracy Morgan has been released from Park City Medical Center after last night’s incident. He took to his Twitter feed today to explain: “The high altitude in Utah shook up this kid …
As part of our Sundance kickoff, Deadline posted a list of the famous and about-to-be-famous whose films are premiering at the festival. Now with the first full day of the event underway, I’m spotlighting a dozen Sundance veterans who have new work screening this year:
Christine Vachon, executive producer Shut Up And Play The Hits — It’s hard to imagine Sundance or even independent film without this producing tour de force. Her credits include I Shot Andy Warhol, Happiness, Velvet Goldmine, Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven and many others. For this year’s edition she’s executive producing along with Keith Wood and The Creators Project on a doc spotlighting LCD Soundsystem’s final show at Madison Square Garden featuring an intimate portrait of James Murphy and his lead-up to the final concert.
Mary Jane Skalski, producer Hello I Must Be Going — Skalski has also made an indelible mark on the Sundance landscape with films stretching back into the ’90s. This century her Sundance portfolio includes The Station Agent, Mysterious Skin, The Hawk Is Dying and last year’s Pariah and Win Win. She returns as producer on Todd Louiso’s competition feature Hello I Must Be Going about a down-and-out 35-year-old woman who finds solace from a 19-year-old boy after returning home to live with her parents.
Eugene Jarecki, director of The House I Live In — Jarecki previously has taken on America’s conflicts abroad, but now turns the lens on the war on drugs which has cost 45 million arrests over four decades — making America the world’s top jailer. Jarecki’s first short, Seasons Of The Lifterbees debuted at Sundance in 1993. He won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and a Peabody Award for 2005′s Why We Fight and premiered his HBO doc Reagan at the festival last year.
Paul Dano, executive producer/actor in For Ellen — Dano may be a name in a good number of households following his stints in Fast Food Nation, There Will Be Blood and Meek’s Cutoff. In 2006, Little Miss Sunshine took Sundance by storm, in which he starred along with then-newcomer Abigail Breslin. He’s back again, starring in and executive producing For Ellen directed by So Yong Kim (also a Sundance vet who took a Special Jury Prize for In Between Days at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival). Dano plays Joby, a struggling musician who takes an overnight long-distance drive to fight his estranged wife for custody of their young daughter.
The Sundance Film Festival is infamously where relatively unknown filmmakers travel to Park City and maybe leave the mountain resort on the road to glory. But this year may have more well-known names swaggering down Main Street with projects than in recent years. Here’s a snapshot of the film famous you’ll be hearing about at Sundance and why:
SPIKE LEE, director/producer, Red Hook Summer - Spike has a long history going in and out of the studio system and hitting the pavement at Sundance where he returns with his latest. The director often laments how difficult it is to get money for projects despite making $300 million on Inside Man. Fast forward several documentaries later, and Lee picks up the feature filmmaking mantle again about an Atlanta boy who is sent to spend the summer in a Brooklyn NY housing project with the grandfather he’s never met. With all titles screening in the festival’s Premieres section headed to Sundance without a distributor in place, Lee is once again counting on his indie roots for this pic.
JULIE DELPY, writer/director/star, 2 Days In New York - Delpy opened the Sundance Film Festival with Before Sunrise way back in 1995. Now she returns with 2 Days In New York – a follow up to 2007′s 2 Days In Paris. Delpy took her recent films including 2 Days In Paris to Berlin for their debuts, but is headed to Sundance with the latest. The film has sold some international territories already and the feature’s American setting is ripe for a Sundance splash, according to the film’s sales company Rezo. In no small part due to star Chris Rock who plays opposite Delpy. In the film, Delpy reprises her 2 Days In Paris character Marion who lives with her new lover Mingus (Rock) and their two kids from previous relationships. The couple get an unexpected visit from her father (played by Delpy’s real-life dad), her oversexed sister, and her outrageous boyfriend.
STEPHEN FREARS, director Lay The Favorite - You would think two Oscar nominations for Best Director not to mention multiple Awards for 2006′s The Queen (including a win for actress Helen Mirren) would mean a golden ticket for future projects and a studio backer. But such is not the case anymore and Frears will join fellow filmmakers vying for distribution at Sundance. Pic has a well-known cast including Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, and Joshua Jackson. This latest follows a beautiful but ditzy gal who moves to Las Vegas and meets a pro sports gambler who hones in on her natural skills for numbers to his advantage.
MICHAEL STIPE, executive producer, Me@ The Zoo - The former R.E.M. front man has his hand in film for decades now, most prominently beginning in the late 1990s as executive producer of Velvet Goldmine and producer of multiple Oscar-nominee Being John Malkovich. Ubiquitous at Sundance in the early part of the 2000s, his last big project there was 2004′s Saved via his Single Cell Pictures. His other production company C-Hundred Film Corp (with filmmaker Jim McKay) is taking Me @ The Zoo to Sundance this year where it is screening in competition. The film follows video blogger Chris Crocker whose YouTube plea “Leave Britney Alone!” has been viewed gazillion times.
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival has filled out the film schedule with a Premieres lineup of features and documentaries that add some star power to the festival. As Deadline reported last week, the festival added the Stephen Frears-directed Bruce Willis-starrer Lay The Favorite as well as a film by Julie Delpy, another that stars Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, and another with Bradley Cooper. Most of the films come without distribution, so they will add to what is being forecast as potentially heavy dealmaking. Here’s the list:
2 Days in New York / France (Director: Julie Delpy, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau) — Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon.
Arbitrage / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki) — A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help. Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker.
Bachelorette / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland) — Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.
California Solo / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marshall Lewy) — A former Britpop rocker has long settled for an unfettered life working on a farm outside of L.A. When he’s caught driving drunk and faces deportation, he must confront past and current demons in his life to stay in the country. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, Danny Masterson.
Celeste and Jesse Forever / U.S.A. (Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack) — Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts.
For A Good Time, Call… / U.S.A. (Director: Jamie Travis, Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon & Lauren Anne Miller) — Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture. Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk.
GOATS / U.S.A. (Director: Christopher Neil, Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier) — Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he reconnects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics. Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell.
LAY THE FAVORITE / U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Frears, Screenwriter: D.V. DeVincentis) — An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage. Cast: Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall.
Liberal Arts / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor) — When 30-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser.
Price Check / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Walker) — Pete is having trouble resolving a happy marriage and family life with rising debt and a job he hates. When his new boss pulls him into the maelstrom that is her life, money and opportunities come his way, but at what price? Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais, Cheyenne Jackson.
Red Hook Summer / U.S.A. (Director: Spike Lee, Screenwriters: James McBride, Spike Lee) — A young Atlanta boy spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before. Cast: Clarke Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, Thomas Jefferson Byrd.
Red Lights / U.S.A., Spain (Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés) — Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones.
Robot and Frank / U.S.A. (Director: Jake Schreier, Screenwriter: Christopher Ford) — A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker. Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler.
SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM
Shadow Dancer / United Kingdom (Director: James Marsh, Screenwriter: Tom Bradby) — When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen.
The Words / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal) — Aspiring writer Rory Jansen finds another man’s haunting memories in a collection of lost stories and claims them as his own, propelling him to literary stardom. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde with Zoe Saldana. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
BREAKING: The Sundance Institute has unveiled the U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary competition slate for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival that runs January 19-29. There is a total of 110 features. At the Gotham Awards earlier this week, both agents and distributors felt there would a bounty of promising films with no distribution. That could make for a lot of dealmaking, which is certainly the way it went down last January in Park City.
Here are the selections in all categories:
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
The world premieres of 16 American narrative feature films.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild / U.S.A. (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar) — Waters gonna rise up, wild animals gonna rerun from the grave, and everything south of the levee is goin’ under, in this tale of a six year old named Hushpuppy, who lives with her daddy at the edge of the world. Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry.
The Comedy / U.S.A. (Director: Rick Alverson, Screenwriters: Rick Alverson, Robert Donne, Colm O’Leary) — Indifferent even to the prospects of inheriting his father’s estate, Swanson whiles away his days with a group of aging Brooklyn hipsters, engaging in small acts of recreational cruelty and pacified boredom. Cast: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Kate Lyn Sheil, Alexia Rassmusen, Gregg Turkington.
The End Of Love / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mark Webber) — A young father unravels following the loss of the mother of his child. Cast: Mark Webber, Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Cera, Jason Ritter, Amanda Seyfried, Frankie Shaw.
Filly Brown / U.S.A. (Directors: Youssef Delara, Michael D. Olmos, Screenwriter: Youssef Delara) — A Hip Hop-driven drama about a Mexican girl who rises to fame and consciousness as she copes with the incarceration of her mother through music. Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Gina Rodriguez, Jenni Rivera, Edward James Olmos.
The First Time / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jonathan Kasdan) — Two high schoolers meet at a party. Over the course of a weekend, things turn magical, romantic, complicated and funny, as they discover what it’s like to fall in love for the first time. Cast: Brittany Robertson, Dylan O’Brien, Craig Roberts, James Frecheville, Victoria Justice.
For Ellen / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: So Yong Kim) — A struggling musician takes an overnight long-distance drive in order to fight his estranged wife for custody of their young daughter. Cast: Paul Dano, Jon Heder, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva, Shay Mandigo.
Hello I Must Be Going / U.S.A. (Director: Todd Louiso, Screenwriter: Sarah Koskoff) — Divorced, childless, demoralized and condemned to move back in with her parents at the age of 35, Amy Minsky’s prospects look bleak – until the unexpected attention of a teenage boy changes everything. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Julie White. DAY ONE FILM
Keep The Lights On / U.S.A. (Director: Ira Sachs, Screenwriters: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias) — An autobiographically inspired story of a passionate long-term relationship between two men driven by addiction and secrets but bound by love and hopefulness. Cast: Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson, Souleymane Sy Savane, Paprika Steen.
LUV / U.S.A. (Director: Sheldon Candis, Screenwriters: Sheldon Candis, Justin Wilson) — An orphaned 11-year-old boy is forced to face the unpleasant truth about his beloved uncle during one harrowing day in the streets of Baltimore. Cast: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton.
Middle Of Nowhere / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ava DuVernay) — When her husband is incarcerated, an African-American woman struggles to maintain her marriage and her identity. Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissant, Edwina Findley.
Nobody Walks / U.S.A. (Director: Ry Russo-Young, Screenwriters: Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young) — Martine, a young artist from New York, is invited into the home of a hip, liberal LA family for a week. Her presence unravels the family’s carefully maintained status quo, and a mess of sexual and emotional entanglements ensues. Cast: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga, Justin Kirk.
Safety Not Guaranteed / U.S.A. (Director: Colin Trevorrow, Screenwriter: Derek Connolly) — A trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel. One employee develops feelings for the paranoid but compelling loner and seeks to discover what he’s really up to. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni.
Save The Date / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Mohan, Screenwriters: Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan) — As her sister Beth prepares to get married, Sarah finds herself caught up in an intense post-breakup rebound. The two fumble through the redefined emotional landscape of modern day relationships, forced to relearn how to love and be loved. Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend, Mark Webber.
Simon Killer / France, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Antonio Campos) — A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of 5 years. Once there, he falls in love with a young prostitute and their fateful journey begins. Cast: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Constance Rousseau, Michael Abiteboul, Solo.
Smashed / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Susan Burke, James Ponsoldt) — Kate and Charlie are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and… drinking. When Kate decides to get sober, her new lifestyle brings troubling issues to the surface and calls into question her relationship with Charlie. Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally.
The Surrogate / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ben Lewin) — Mark O’Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung, decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin. With the help of his therapist and the guidance of his priest, he contacts a professional sex surrogate to take him on a journey to manhood. Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy.