John Carney‘s comedy was known by the much more intriguing title Can A Song Save Your Life? when it was one of the buzz titles last fall at its Toronto Film Festival premiere. That’s where The Weinstein Company acquired it in an epic and rich bidding war. Now the music-driven NY-set pic starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld and Adam Levine has been renamed Begin Again and has been tapped to close the 13th Tribeca Film Festival on April 26. TWC releases the pic July 4. No word from the company today on the reason for changing the name, which really seemed to nail the idea of the film. The pic is infused with the same love of music as Carney’s charming Once, but this one has the star power and broader scope to reach a crossover audience to tell its story of what happens when lost souls meet and make beautiful music together. Here’s hoping some focus group didn’t have anything to do with this.
The sales market at the Toronto Film Festival was the healthiest and most vigorous that I can remember, certainly since that barren year when the prestige film bubble burst and the sole festival sale was the Tom Ford-directed A Single Man. During the first five days at least of this Toronto, there was deal action going into the wee hours of the morning. One quality, crowd-pleasing acquisition title after another un-spooled each night and then distributors were left trying to restrain themselves from going past their sober revenue projections as they tried to fill holes in 2014 slates.
At last count, around 28 Toronto films have sold in deals large and small, agents tell me. I thought the biggest challenge for sellers would be to get distributors to focus because of the inordinate amount of titles they launched into the Oscar race with lavish Toronto premieres. Instead, the biggest challenge for sellers, and buyers for that matter, was stamina. We are all getting older, and pretty much everyone was walking around like zombies after taking part Friday and Saturday in the fest’s biggest deals—Focus paying $7 million for world rights to the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words, and The Weinstein Company paying $7 million and $20 million in P&A for U.S. rights to the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life?
Dare I say that Toronto was the first seller’s market in as long as I can remember? I asked the top agents at the three most prolific deal making agencies if that was true. None of them were cocky enough to use the “S” word, but all three of them said they expect to clear their considerable inventories by the end of next week. Even if nothing got done until the time everyone but insomniacs are asleep. Read More »
2ND UPDATE, 2:25 AM PT: After an all night auction, The Weinstein Company is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. rights to the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life? TWC is now in exclusive negotiations and I’m told they are tying down a deal that will land at around a $7 million minimum guarantee for U.S. rights with a P&A commitment of at least $20 million. They are working on the final numbers in what is a very strong deal for the film backed by Exclusive Media and Sycamore, and Exclusive is nearly done auctioning off the remaining foreign countries. There are going to be a lot of tired deal makers roaming around Toronto Sunday, as CAA, UTA and WME were all in the mix making all of these deals, with several bidders in the mix until the wee hours. These kinds of auctions don’t happen that often anymore, but Carney made an exceptional movie with breakout potential if it is handled right and I’m not surprised so many distributors sparked to it the way they did. Coming in, it looked like Can A Song Save Your Life? and Bad Words would be the big money titles and they didn’t disappoint. Both went in … Read More »
iThe Toronto Film Festival got underway last night with the Gala premiere of the Bill Condon-directed DreamWorks Julian Assange film The Fifth Estate. Today, the acquisitions market should get going with the first screening of the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words and Saturday’s premiere of Once helmer John Carney’s Can A Song Save Your Life?
Toronto has long served a dual role as a global platform to launch prestige films into the Oscar race, as well as a place where distributors can bolster slates with acquisitions of finished films that need someone to release them. The odd thing about this year’s marketplace: the biggest challenge facing sellers is to get the major buyers to focus, because they are so preoccupied with the films they are launching in the Oscar race from Toronto that dealmaking is a distant second on the priority level. Whether it’s The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, CBS Films or Focus Features, everybody has a viable Oscar horse. Frankly, there is less early chit-chat about deal prospects than there is about how the end-of-year releases of Oscar corridor films will be as crowded and brutally competitive as the summer season that just passed. There are way more films platforming and playing through the winter than was the cast last year. Just as some worthy summer blockbusters underperformed because of the onslaught, upcoming prestige films will be under extreme pressure to perform.
Here, the major distributors that have the funds to create bidding battles have tons of product at Toronto. SPC’s Michael Barker and Tom Bernard have nine movies playing, and TWC’s Harvey Weinstein has six. The challenge facing sellers will be to get those buyers to wrap their arms around new product that will fill slate holes in 2014. Everybody is loaded for bear for the fall and early winter. This won’t be a replay of the times past, when films like Shame, The Wrestler and Rabbit Hole were acquired and launched from festivals right into Oscar season.
Cee Lo Green has joined the cast of “Can A Song Save Your Life?”, the romantic drama written and being directed by John Carney that already stars Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener and Green’s fellow The Voice judge Adam Levine. Production is set to begin next month in New York. The Grammy-winning Green will play a successful hip-hop star in the film, about a woman (Knightley) who tries to make it in the music biz with the help of a down-and-out music producer (Ruffalo). The Exclusive Media production is being produced by Likely Story’s Anthony Bregman and Judd Apatow is executive producer. Green is repped by Green Primary Wave Talent Management.
EXCLUSIVE: Catherine Keener has joined the cast of Can A Song Save Your Life?She joins Mark Ruffalo, hot off his stint as the Hulk in Marvel’s The Avengers, and Keira Knightley in the film. Keener will play the estranged wife of Ruffalo’s down-on-his-luck music producer character. The romantic drama is directed and written by John Carney. Judd Apatow is executive producing along with Sam Hoffman, Anthony Bregman and Tobin Armbrust. Can A Song Save Your Life? is scheduled to start shooting soon in New York City. Hailee Steinfield and The Voice’s Adam Levine also star. Keener recently completed work on Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, which was written by The Hunger Games scribe Billy Ray and is scheduled to come out March 22, 2013. Keener is repped by Gersh.
EXCLUSIVE: Fresh from his Best Actor Tony Award for One Man, Two Guvnors, James Corden has booked two strong film roles. Corden has signed on to join the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life, which stars Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld and Adam Levine. Corden will play the best friend of Knightley’s character, who plays a singer who moves with her boyfriend to New York to pursue music careers and she gets dumped as soon as he makes it.
Corden is also set to star as Paul Potts in One Chance for The Weinstein Company. Potts is the schlubby British cell phone salesman who showed up onstage to sing opera on Britain’s Got Talent in 2007, and left a hosting panel that included Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan with their jaws on the floor. David Frankel is directing that film, as Potts won the competition and is now a successful opera singer. In case you’ve forgotten Potts, below is a refresher course (I never get tired of watching this clip). Corden is repped by WME and Ruth Young at United Agents in the UK.
EXCLUSIVE: Adam Levine, the lead singer of Maroon 5 and a judge on The Voice, has landed a lead role in Can A Song Save Your Life. That is the next film by director John Carney, who directed the film Once, which won an Oscar for Best Original Song and was turned into the Broadway musical that last Sunday won Best Musical among eight Tony Awards. Levine will join Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Hailee Steinfeld in the film. Anthony Bregman is producing with Exclusive Media, the latter of which is financing. Judd Apatow is executive producer.
Knightley plays a woman who moves with her boyfriend (Levine) to New York to pursue music careers. After he dumps her for a solo contract, she is discovered singing at a local bar by a down-on-his-luck record producer (Ruffalo).
Beside his musical work and his TV show, Levine is moving squarely into acting mode. He’s also booked for a multi-episode arc on American Horror Story. He’s repped by Career Artist Management and CAA.