Jack-of-many-trades Kevin Connolly is in Berlin this week to talk up his latest directorial effort, The Wright Girls. The soon-to-be 40-year-old Connolly, who’s been working in the business for more than 30 years, also stars in upcoming comedy Friends With Better Lives which debuts on CBS following the finale of How I Met Your Mother. Nevertheless, this is his first sales market. Despite being awed by the process, he told me tonight, “The more you know about every aspect of the business, the better.” The Wright Girls is a remake based on the Japanese movie 2LDK and centers on two female co-stars of a past-its-prime sitcom who are roommates in real life. When they realize they are both up for the same lead role in a big movie, they go from best friends to worst enemies in the course of one action-packed night. Atlas Independent’s William Green and Aaron Ginsberg are producing with Atlas Entertainment’s Alex Gartner. Highland Film Group is selling here at EFM. Jessica Alba stars in the movie with the other lead to be cast soon. Alba, who Connolly recently directed in Dear Eleanor on which he’s in post, was the one to float the Wright Girls script to him — and he bit, quickly. Both Dear Eleanor and The Wright Girls are female driven movies; a seeming departure for the star who is most closely associated with the ultimate bro-fest, HBO series Entourage. “I’m a rah, rah guy’s guy. I like to talk about sports and put people in headlocks,” he told me today. But the unintentional bent towards working wth women could be a product of a decade of the testosterone-fueled Entourage, he allows. By the time that the Entourage movie starts principal photography on February 19, it will have been just about 10 years since the seminal series began. Or “maybe I’m preparing for marriage,” Connolly joked.
Berlin: After A Decade-Long Bro-Fest, Kevin Connolly Explores ‘The Wright Girls’ As Director & Tubthumper
Berlin: Competition’s ‘Two Men In Town’ Bows; Star Forest Whitaker Prodded On ‘The Butler’ Oscar Snub (Video)
Oscar-nominated Days Of Glory helmer Rachid Bouchareb’s Berlin Competition entry Two Men In Town is based on the 1973 Alain Delon/Jean Gabin film. The update, sold by Pathé, deals with questions of racial profiling, religion and immigration. It stars Forest Whitaker, Brenda Blethyn, Harvey Keitel, Luis Guzman and Dolores Heredia. Whitaker plays an ex-con just out of prison who, despite his new-found Islamic faith, struggles with violent impulses. Although much of today’s panel with some of the stars turned around the issues the film examines, Whitaker, who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Last King Of Scotland, was asked about the fact that Lee Daniels’ The Butler had been shut out at the Oscars. He responded, “You can never gauge things of that nature, all you can gauge is the experience you had. I had an amazing experience; it was life-altering for me and I felt very proud of what we accomplished.” To which Blethyn, a two-time Oscar-nominee, chimed in, “We don’t make films to win awards. We make them to entertain the paying public. If awards come along that’s great… Somehow, the perception is if it doesn’t win an award it’s a failure. It’s not true.” Here’s a clip from Two Men In Town:
Bill Murray, aka “The Murricane,” is blowing through Berlin this week on what’s become a sort of one-man comedy tour — and a fun distraction from a thus-far quiet market. Yesterday, he was out in support of Wes Anderson’s opening-night film The Grand Budapest Hotel, riffing that he worked for “low wages and stale bread,” and today he was tickling buyers’ funny bones at a brunch for Rock The Kasbah. Murray shared a stage this morning with QED International’s Bill Block and director Barry Levinson, who were clearly pleased that the movie sold to Open Road for the U.S. just last night. But busy Murray wanted to make something very clear, “I don’t like to leave my house. I am a lazy person and I don’t like to work. But when I work, I work very hard… Did I mention I don’t like to work? I don’t like to be here right now. I like you all very much, but this work thing is crap.”
Regardless, shooting starts June 2 in Marrakech on the pic that also stars Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Shia LaBeouf and Zooey Deschanel. Murray plays a has-been rock manager who takes his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan. When he ends up abandoned in Kabul, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice and manages her through Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. The collaborators said this morning that an authentic Afghan singer is being sought for the part of the girl while there will be a lot of Cat Stevens songs and the classic eponymous Clash tune, natch.
EXCLUSIVE: The European Film Market has been a bit sparse, with things perking up with Open Road’s acquisition of Rock The Kasbah. I’ve heard that pre-buy deal amounted to a $2 million minimum guarantee, a 10% gross deal for Bill Murray and a 1200-screen release commitment. If there is going to be action in Berlin, it might well be through the sizzle reels or other pre-buys.
The script stage projects being introduced in Berlin that seem most promising are the Daniel Craig-starrer The Whole Truth, the Jonathan Jakubowicz-directed Roberto Duran biopic Hands Of Stone with Edgar Ramirez playing the legend, Robert De Niro his trainer and Usher his rival Sugar Ray Leonard; the Nima Nourizadeh-directed American Ultra with Jesse Eisenberg and Stewart; the Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer Blood Mountain, about an Army ranger who must bring a terrorist to custody after his unit is wiped out in Pakistan; the Oren Moverman-directed Time Out Of Mind with Richard Gere; the Natalie Portman-directed A Tale Of Love And Darkness; Selma, the Ava DuVerney drama that stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr; the David Gordon Green-directed The Line with Chris Pine; the Anton Corbjin-directed Life with Robert Pattinson; and the Paolo Sorrentino-directed In The Future with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. A lot of these are being teased at Berlin, and will lead to sales at Cannes.
As for the sizzle reels, today is a big day with footage screenings of Imitation Game with Cumberbatch, and The Search, which is Michel Hazanavicius’ follow-up to The Artist. Here are the sizzle reels that have buyers hot and bothered:
Berlin Briefs: Rob Cohen To Helm ‘Risk’; Umedia Digs ‘Deep’; Buyers Show Up For Competition’s ‘In Order Of Disappearance’
Alex Cross and The Fast And The Furious director Rob Cohen is set to helm Umedia‘s action heist thriller Risk. A summer production start is eyed. The film follows a brilliant thief who’s sprung early from prison to execute a nearly impossible art heist. Reluctant to follow the same path that put him in jail in the first place, he’s drawn into a dangerous triangle with a crime boss and a beautiful and mysterious accomplice. Brussels-based Umedia’s Adrian Politowski and Karl Richards will produce with Tim Kwok, Ksana Golod and George Parra. The screenplay is by Eric Harlacher. Umedia International will handle sales.
In other Umedia news, the company’s international sales arm has boarded Spanish animation studio The Thinklab’s family feature Deep. From a script by former DreamWorks story consultant Mike de Seve of Baboon Animation, the film is directed by Julio Soto (Fluffs!). Umedia is showing a sizzle reel to buyers. The story is set in a deep-sea world of the future where humans have abandoned the earth and the oceans have risen. An adventurous octopus named Deep, and his two best friends, angler fish Evo, and neurotic shrimp Alice, must set off on a perilous journey when an earthquake destroys their home. Deep is produced by Adriana Malfatti and Jorge Bazaco, Character development is managed by Spa Studios, the original story creators of Despicable Me, and the company’s owner Sergio Pablos who has designed characters for Disney’s Tarzan, Blue Sky’s Rio, Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Hercules.
UPDATE, 4:25 AM: Exclusive Media co-chairman/CEO Nigel Sinclair has confirmed Deadline’s exclusive story last night that a reorganization is underway at the company, one that very well could leave the co-founders no longer running the label after some big bets didn’t pay off. Sinclair issued this statement: “Exclusive Media’s management is engaged in collaborative discussions with our partners from Dasym Investment Strategies BV regarding the forward plan for the company. We will make an announcement regarding the outcome of these discussions at the appropriate time.”
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, THURSDAY PM: The talk of Berlin is a shake-up that is going on right now at Exclusive Media, the production and foreign sales company that is headed by Nigel Sinclair and Guy East. I’m hearing that this will likely end with both of them either leaving those executive posts or transitioning into producing deals. Insiders acknowledge the turmoil, but denied that Sinclair or East could be fired because they are part owners of the company. Sinclair and East — well respected veterans who were behind Let Me In, The Ides Of March and Woman In Black as well as the music documentaries Last Play At Shea with Billy Joel and the Martin Scorsese-directed docu on George Harrison — formed Exclusive Media when they merged their Spitfire Pictures label into the venture, with an acquisition of Hammer Films coming after. The company is backed primarily by Netherlands-based investment company Dasym Investment Strategies.
EXCLUSIVE: Paradise City, the newly-minted production label of Paris-based Memento Films International, has tapped Bill Paxton to direct the adaptation of prolific author Joe Lansdale’s The Bottoms. The Edgar Award winning, racially-themed novel is set in East Texas and follows an adolescent boy, his little sister, and their father who stumble across the body of a black woman who has been savagely mutilated and left to die in the bottom of the Sabine River. The townsfolk cover up the crime until the body of a white woman is found in similar circumstances and it falls to the family to unearth the truth. The transfer is written by Brent Hanley who penned Paxton’s 2001 directing effort Frailty. Shooting is planned for later this year.
Related: Berlin: Memento Films International Builds Paradise City Label; Staffs Up In London
“I have been a big fan of Joe Lansdale’s writing since the Hap And Leonard novels,” Paxton says. “His stories and characters are vivid, original and indelible. The screenwriter Brent Hanley and I have been looking to team up again, since Frailty and when we read Joe’s book The Bottoms, we knew we had hit pay dirt. With a story and script this good, we have a chance to make a bonafide classic. I couldn’t be more …
BREAKING: Open Road Films is loading its slate with strong pre-bought ensemble pics. Just a day after it pre-bought rights to the John Hillcoat heist thriller Triple Nine, the distributor has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Rock The Kasbah, the Barry Levinson-directed comedy that stars Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Shia LaBeouf and Zooey Deschanel. The pic, scripted by Mitch Glazer, is being financed by QED International and Venture Forth and Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg sealed the deal with QED’s Bill Block. Block, Venture Forth’s Jacob Pechenik, Shangri-La Entertainment’s Steve Bing and Glazer are producing the film, which starts production in June. Brian Grazer and Tom Freston are executive producers.
Murray plays a has-been rock manager who takes his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan. When Richie finds himself in Kabul, abandoned, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice and manages her through Afghanistan’s version of American Idol, the wildly popular Afghan Star.
QED is repping the pic in Berlin.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione reports from the Berlin Film Festival opening today, previewing the Berlinale with host David Bloom. They also take a look at China’s new plan to crack down on box-office fraud and what it means for Hollywood’s products in the No. 2 film market; detail the UK’s big jump in film production from overseas; and plumb the surprising overlap of real-world political scandal and fictional drama that made the Cesar Award nomination announcements far more titillating than usual.
Berlin: 2014 Competition Titles More Accessible; Strong Lead-In From ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’s Opening-Night Premiere
After a hard-core art house lineup last year, the Berlin Film Festival may just have gone user-friendly for 2014. “It feels a bit more commercial than previous years,” said a U.S. buyer ahead of tonight’s kick-off. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel opened the festival to raves this evening in competition, lending glitz to the proceedings with a Euro caper populated by well-liked stars. While reviews are coming out strong, it will be interesting to see how the jury reacts to the film: President James Schamus was still at Focus Features when the company released Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom. Fox Searchlight has Grand Budapest and is releasing in the U.S. on March 7.
There’s buzz, too, elsewhere in the lineup. One film I hear heavily talked about is Yann Demange’s Belfast-set action thriller 71, with a hot up-and-comer in Jack O’Connell and sold by Protagonist. Eyes are also on Rachid Bouchareb’s Two Men In Town with Forest Whitaker, Harvey Keitel, Brenda Blethyn and Luis Guzman. Whitaker plays an ex-con just out of prison who, despite his new-found faith, struggles with violent impulses. Keitel is the sheriff who wants to send him back to jail. Pathé has international sales. Another title, Aloft, was picked up today for the U.S. and Latin America by Sony Pictures Classics giving the film momentum. Director Claudia Llosa, whose The Milk Of Sorrow won the Golden Bear in 2009, makes her English-language debut with the drama that stars Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy and Melanie Laurent. Dreamcatchers has sales.
Related: Hot Berlin Clip: Yann Demange’s ’71′
EXCLUSIVE: After Nazis-from-the-moon pic Iron Sky in 2012, and creature feature Big Ass Spider last year, could this be Berlin’s 2014 hot crossover “genre”? I’m a girl, and Deadline readers are not dupes, so I’m not going to make too many pointed references as to why Zombeavers might catch on in a kitschy fashion. What I will say is that the horror/comedy hails from Benderspink, Armory Films and Evan Astrowsky and that Big Ass Spider‘s Epic Pictures Group is spreading the film out to buyers at the EFM. In it, a group of college kids at a riverside cabin are menaced by a swarm of deadly zombie beavers. The film is helmed by first-time director Jordan Rubin from a script he wrote with brothers Jon and Al Kaplan. Rubin also wrote the opening film for the 2011 Academy Awards and recently completed an animated pilot starring Mike Tyson that was just picked up by Adult Swim. He says, “This may very well be the most important film you will ever see about zombie beavers.” Judge for yourself:
The Berlin fest’s European Film Market kicked off today under surprisingly sunny skies. That’s oddly apt for a market that a buyer referred to this week as “a desert.” The exec was lamenting the lack of big-ticket product to be proffered up and down hotel halls here. “Everybody is asking where the projects are. Cannes better be good because we can’t fall any lower.” That’s a pretty harsh evaluation, but one that’s been echoed by others.
That’s not to say there is a total lack of catnip amongst the pickings here. Some of the projects generating extra heat include IM Global’s M. Night Shyamalan/Bruce Willis reteam Labor Of Love, and Chris Pine-starrer The Line; FilmNation’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain and directed by JC Chandor; Sierra/Affinity‘s Jonathan Mostow-directed action thriller For The Dogs with Emma Roberts and Sam Worthington; and Mister Smith’s Jesse Owens pic Race. But the oft-heard complaint that Berlin falls too closely on the heels of the AFM, the holidays and Sundance, is even more of a lament this year. IM Global’s Stuart Ford tells me, “As ever, Berlin does suffer from the time crunch. It’s always hard to get new projects completely packaged.” There’s also a bit of a slowdown in the higher-budget …
Mads Mikkelsen has come aboard writer-director Diego Rafecas’ First Law, a drama set in the jungles of Argentina and based on a true story. The plot centers on two brothers — one under the wing of a shaman, the other working for a corrupt mega-corporation — who must choose where their loyalties lie when their ancestral home faces destruction. Armand Assante and Adriana Barraza co-star, and Stealth Media Group is showing footage at EFM. Producers are Zazen Producciones’ Marcelo Laccarino and Michael Tadross Jr, Reservoir Pictures’ Francesco Di Silvio, Rosebud Entertainment Pictures’ Edouard de Ligne (Young Victor Perz) and Z Entertainment’s Pasquale Zaza.
Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel screened for the press here in Berlin this afternoon before officially opening the event tonight in competition. Reactions were greatly positive — one journalist at the film’s press conference looked about to cry over its beauty — although official reviews won’t appear until later this evening. Stars Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan and Tilda Swinton attended the press conference to talk about the movie that follows the adventures of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The nostalgic Euro caper involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune.
Berlin Briefs: Vera Farmiga Pirouettes To ‘Prima’; ‘Your Right Mind’ Adds Clea DuVall; ‘Take Down’ Casts Up; Buyers Like ‘Someone You Love’; Sophie Nélisse To Play ‘Gilly Hopkins’; More
Vera Farmiga has signed on to star in relationship comedy Prima. Even Greenberg wrote the script and is directing the film that was previously known as Dance Of The Mirlitons. The film is prepping for a March start and centers around a 12-year-old girl who shocks everyone when she is accepted into a prestigious school for dancers. While she learns that to get to the top, she must kill or be killed, her mother struggles to acclimate to her posh stomping grounds. The Allegiance Theater’s Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine are producing along with Karine Martin under her Mediamax banner. Highland Film Group has worldwide sales here in Berlin. Farmiga is repped by CAA, Jon Rubinstein of Authentic Talent and Literary Management, and Jodi Peikoff of Peikoff Mahan.
Principal photography is currently underway on another Highland Film Group pic, Ami Canaan Mann’s Your Right Mind with Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes starring. Joining the cast are Clea DuVall, Sheryl Lee, Emily Alyn Lind and Ryan Bingham. Canaan Mann wrote the script about a modern-day traveling folk singer who puts his dreams of becoming a successful musician on hold when he meets a former country singer fighting for custody of her daughter. Molly Hassell is producing with Canaan Mann and John Jencks. Jon Avnet, Rodrigo Garcia, Highland Film Group’s Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier, and Main Street Films’ …
The Berlin Film Festival has organized tribute screenings to mark the recent passing of two actors who had a long history with the event. On February 11, Philip Seymour Hoffman will be honored with a showing of Capote, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar in 2006. That film also played in competition here that year. Other Hoffman films to have appeared in Berlin include 2003 Panorama title Owning Mahowny; Spike Lee’s 25th Hour; Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, which won the Golden Bear in 2000. In memory of Maximilian Schell, who passed away on February 1, producers Margit Chuchra, Dieter Pochlatko, and Werner Schweizer are presenting his film My Sister Maria in collaboration with the festival and the German Film Academy. The special screening is set for Sunday. Schell’s Marlene Dietrich documentary Marlene, ran in competition here in 1984. He returned to the competition as an actor in Jeroen Krabbé’s Left Luggage in 1998.
EXCLUSIVE: Epic Pictures Group is introducing Louder Than Words at the EFM here in Berlin this week. The drama is from director Anthony Fabian and stars David Duchovny and Hope Davis in the true story of John and Brenda Fareri. The real-life couple lost their youngest daughter to rabies in 1995 and went on to build a state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Valhalla, NY in her honor. Timothy Hutton also stars in the Benjamin Chapin-scripted film. Preferred Content is repping domestic rights while Epic handles international. Here’s the trailer:
K5 International has boarded international sales on futuristic actioner Vice, starring Bruce Willis. K5 Media Captial has also come aboard to finance with Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films. Shooting starts in Alabama next month on the movie that’s set in a resort where the rich live out their most perverse fantasies via synthetic humanoids. When one becomes self-aware and breaks out, she seeks her revenge. Willis plays the resort’s owner and Ambyr Childers is the renegade android. Thomas Jane has also joined the cast. Brian A. Miller is directing from a script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore. Randall Emmett, George Furla and Adam Goldworm are producers. K5’s Oliver Simon and Daniel Baur are exec producing with Grindstone Entertainment’s Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb. Lionsgate is releasing in the U.S.
Tom Hiddleston will play the lead in High-Rise, the upcoming film from producer Jeremy Thomas. Ben Wheatley (A Field In England) directs the picture that’s based on J.G. Ballard’s 1975 thriller. Amy Jump adapted the book that centers on a luxurious London residential tower so advanced, it’s a world apart. But things begin to degenerate and the tenants turn against one another. Hiddleston plays a young doctor seduced by the building who finds himself in the middle of mounting violence. Wheatley, whose …
Albert Nobbs helmer Rodrigo Garcia is set to direct Last Days In The Desert, a co-production from Mockingbird Pictures and Division Films. Ewan McGregor has boarded to play the dual roles of a holy man and a demon who must confront his own fate after an encounter with a family struggling to survive in the harsh desert environment. Tye Sheridan, who picked up the newcomer prize in Venice for his turn in David Gordon Green’s Joe, also stars as do Ciarán Hinds and Ayelet Zurer. Garcia wrote the script and will start principal photography this month in Southern California. Emmanuel Lubezki is lensing the picture in a reteam with Garcia after their 2000 collaboration Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. Just last weekend, the Gravity cinematographer told Deadline of the project, “It’s a tiny little beautiful, extraordinary script that Rodrigo wrote that we’re going to shoot for five weeks.” Mockingbird’s Julie Lynn and Bonnie Curtis are producing with Wicks Walker. Walker and Nicolas Gonda are financing via Walker’s Division Films and Gonda’s Ironwood Films, in association with Aspiration Media and New Balloon. WME has domestic rights, with Hanway Films representing international here in Berlin. McGregor most recently wrapped production on Mortdecai opposite Johnny Depp. He’s next up in Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got A Gun and makes his Broadway debut …