EXCLUSIVE: Paul Walker is in talks to star in Brick Mansions, the Americanized remake of the Paris-set Banlieue 13. The film has a script by Luc Besson (who co-wrote the original) and Robert Mark Kamen, Besson’s collaborator on Taken. The idea is for Walker to star with David Belle. Belle starred in the original and the sequel District 13: Ultimatum and he is also credited with creating Parkour, a sport that involves agility and leaping and climbing around obstacles. There is a lot of that in these films.
The film will be set in American city, most likely Chicago. Walker will play an undercover detective chasing a weapon of mass destruction that was stolen by a drug dealer in the ghetto known as Brick Mansions. He seeks help from the incredibly agile Lino (Belle), who knows Brick Mansions better than anyone and is the only person not cowering in fear of the drug dealers. Besson’s Europa Corp is producing, and while a number of Hollywood actors wanted the Lino role, Besson would not make the movie unless Belle was in it.
The original Banlieue 13 was directed by Pierre Morel, who went on to direct Besson’s Taken and From Paris With Love. Besson is giving this directing job to another protégé, but the company would not reveal who he is. Europa Corp will soon make a domestic distribution deal, which never seems … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The Oscar race just got a little more interesting. EuropaCorp has made a U.S. distribution deal with Cohen Media Group for the Luc Besson-directed The Lady, the story of Burmese pro-democracy activist and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Upstart Cohen Media Group plans to release the film for an Oscar-qualifying platform release late this year to capitalize on strong performances by Michelle Yeoh, who plays Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis, who plays her Oxford professor husband Michael Aris. The film will get a wider release in early 2012. Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest by the repressive Burmese military-controlled government. Leaders cruelly barred her husband and two sons from visiting her, thinking that it would drive her to leave. Because she knew that once gone she would never be permitted re-entry, Suu Kyi sacrificed everything to stay and become an iconic symbol of democracy and human rights. Her husband and sons bolstered her spirit and campaigned for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991. The distribution deals came quickly after the film premiered Monday evening at Roy Thomson Hall, where Besson, Yeoh and Thewlis received a rousing standing ovation. The deal was brokered by EuropaCorp Group CEO Christophe Lambert and Cohen Media Group CEO Charles S. Cohen.
The Lady becomes the second Toronto title to become an instant entry into upcoming awards season, after Fox Searchlight acquired the NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed Shame with plans to campaign for Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.
After establishing himself as France’s answer to Steven Spielberg directing hits like La Femme Nikita and The Professional and co-writing and producing action films like Taken, Besson has become very selective in the projects he directs. While he has always had a soft spot for strong female protagonists, it has always been in action settings. The Lady is a decided departure and certainly his most personal film to date. Besson made it to refocus the world’s attention on an activist whose continuing plight gets easily forgotten in a turbulent world, even though she won that Nobel Peace Prize and U2′s Bono and The Edge wrote the song Walk On about her sacrifice (which got U2′s album banned in Burma). Read More »
Last year’s Toronto Film Festival started slow for acquisitions, but finished with a flurry of modest distribution deals that served notice the specialty film business had finally pulled out of its nosedive. This year’s festival hasn’t started and already there are fireworks. Deadline broke news yesterday that Harvey Weinstein would start a VOD business, making the acquisitions market for fringe films more competitive; and last night, I heard that a bidding battle had already broken out for the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which should be sold by the time it screens Sunday. Fox Searchlight is the favorite, Sony Pictures Classics is in the mix and I’ve heard that The Weinstein Company is hovering. Bidding began right after its Telluride screening, and the mid-six figures thrown around yesterday will probably go higher. That’s huge, considering the movie is an unabashed NC-17, McQueen has final cut, and the sex-obsessed protagonist is unlikable. Oh, yeah, and the sellers want it released this year for Oscar consideration to capitalize on Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan’s Oscar-caliber performances.
Does this mean we’re in for a drunken buying frenzy? Hardly, buyers tell me. They are eager to see the films, but say there’s no title here that’s going to guarantee somebody will overpay. They are also mindful that many of last year’s deals turned out to be box office busts. More deals will be made than … Read More »
The French director, best-known for his kick-ass action movies, has resumed filming on The Lady, his biopic of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Paris. But Besson is determined to keep filming under wraps because of the pic’s delicate political situation. Michelle Yeoh, who co-starred in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, stars as Suu Kyi, the reluctant politician who spent almost 15 years under house arrest in Burma until November. Besson and the producers are keeping quiet about the film because they don’t want to make Suu Kyi’s position any worse: the academic-turned-politician could still be re-arrested any moment. Still, it’s hard for Besson and his crew to keep secret filming in Oxford, England before Christmas after spending 6 weeks on location in Bangkok, Thailand. In fact, they were filming in Bangkok on the day of Suu Kyi’s release from prison.
The Lady (as Suu Kyi is called in Burma because the military junta was so determined to wipe Suu Kyi from people’s minds, they still aren’t allowed to use her real name there) focuses on the heartrending choice she had to make about whether to return to England and nurse her husband, played by David Thewlis, who was dying of cancer, or to carry on fighting for democracy in Burma. Burma is controlled by a military junta paranoid about her popular support. That’s why they first arrested her in 1989. She then spent most of the next 21 years as a prisoner … Read More »