While most of the industry views the Toronto International Film Festival as a place to showcase films for acquisition or Oscar runs, festival organizers always stock the program with homegrown films. The festival just announced that part of the program, setting a Gala premiere for the Ken Scott-directed drama Starbuck, about a 42-year-old who discovers he’s the biological father of 533 children; Breakaway, a Robert Lieberman-directed hockey drama that features Rob Lowe in its cast; Keyhole, the world premiere of the latest film by Guy Maddin, a gangsters-meets-ghosts sonata that stars Jason Patric; the Jean-Marc Vallee-directed Cafe de Flore; the Michael Dowse-directed hockey comedy Goon that stars Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel and Liev Schreiber; and the Mary Harron-directed The Moth Diaries. The fest previously announced Canadian galas for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Sara Polley’s Take This Waltz.
EXCLUSIVE: Media Rights Capital has made a pre-emptive acquisition of the Jonathan Lethem novel As She Climbed Across the Table, in a package that has David Cronenberg directing, Bruce Wagner writing and Film Rites’ Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch producing. Lethem is the author of Motherless Brooklyn.
The novel is a love triangle among an academic, his particle-physicist girlfriend, and the black hole that comes as the result of her lab experiments to replicate the origins of the universe. The physicist dumps her boyfriend to spend all her time with the black hole — which she calls Lack — and the university professor will do anything to win her back, even confronting his rival for her affections and risking a trip down a cosmic rabbit hole. The premise has comedic and thriller elements, and Film Rites brought it first to Cronenberg, who has covered dangerous and creepy obsessions in films ranging from The Fly to Crash and Dead Ringers. The film reteams Cronenberg with Wagner. Cronenberg was exec producer on Wagner’s adaptation of his own novel, I’m Losing You.
EXCLUSIVE: Rosario Dawson has won the hotly contested female lead in the Danny Boyle-directed Fox Searchlight drama Trance. She is poised to join James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel, who are both in negotiations to play the male leads in a film that will start production in September. McAvoy’s in talks to play the inside man in an art heist that goes wrong. He runs afoul of an accomplice (Cassel), and Dawson will play a woman who develops an unusual relationship with both men in a thriller that is as moderately budget and edgy as Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. Joe Ahearne and John Hodge wrote the script.
Deadline was first to reveal Trance in early May, when Boyle decided to work in a follow-up to 127 Hours even as he prepares to direct the opening ceremonies of next summer’s Olympics in London. He’s re-teaming with frequent producing collaborator Christian Colson. They will shoot the movie in the fall in London, then put it on a shelf while Boyle devotes himself to the Olympics beginning in January. When the games are over, Boyle will start cutting the film in August 2012 with the goal of having the picture ready for Fox Searchlight to release it in March 2013.
EXCLUSIVE: David Cronenberg’s science-fiction horror classic Scanners may be headed to the small screen. The Weinstein Co.’s Dimension Films is developing a drama series adaptation of the movies about a group of people with telepathic and telekinetic abilities, with The Hills Have Eyes writer-director Alexandre Aja signed to executive produce the series and potentially direct the pilot.
Dimension was not involved in the original 1981 Scanners film or its sequels, but acquired the rights to the franchise in a development deal several years ago. The original plan was to mount a theatrical remake, with David Goyer tapped to write two drafts, and Rene Malo, Clark Peterson and Pierre David signed as producers. But with the recent resurgence of genre TV dramas like AMC’s monster hit The Walking Dead, Dimension started also considering a small-screen adaptation. According to insiders, it was Dimension principal Bob Weinstein and Aja who conceived of the plan to transform the Scanners property into a TV show. Malo, Peterson and David remain attached as executive producers on the series, while Goyer is no longer involved. Dimension is already in talks with potential showrunners to create and run the series. Aja is repped by WME and Industry Entertainment.
NEW YORK (June 16, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired the US Rights to David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD from UK based Hanway Films. The film, produced by Jeremy Thomas (THE LAST EMPEROR, SEXY BEAST), stars Viggo Mortenson, Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, and Vincent Cassel. The film is currently in post-production.
Cronenberg once again gathered a prestigious crew to work on A DANGEROUS METHOD, director of photography Peter Suschitsky (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES), composer Howard Shore (THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy, AVATAR), editor Ronald Sanders (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES, CORALINE), costume designer Denise Cronenberg (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES, THE INCREDIBLE HULK) and production designer James McAteer (GOOD WILL HUNTING, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN). The screenplay was adapted by Christopher Hampton (ATONEMENT, THE QUIET AMERICAN) from his own play.
Graham King’s GK Films has hired Focus Features exec Kahli Small to be executive vice president of production and development. She will report directly to King and will work out of GK’s Santa Monica headquarters. Kahli is a seven-year vet of Focus Features and most recently held the title of executive vice president of production and development. Her projects have included the Oscar-nominated Harvey Milk biopic Milk, the David Cronenberg-directed Viggo Mortensen starrer Eastern Promises, and The American, which starred George Clooney. Before Focus, she was head of production at Key Entertainment, and was an exec at MGM.
“Her reputation in the industry and track record for success are exactly the qualities that we are looking for in executives as we expand our company,” King said in a statement. The appointment comes at a time when GK (run by King and partner Tim Headington) are gearing up on several major projects. They include a movie adaptation of the hit stage musical Jersey Boys, the untitled biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury that has a script by Peter Morgan and Sacha Baron Cohen starring, and a reboot of Tomb Raider. GK is about to start production on the Tim Burton-directed Johnny Depp starrer Dark Shadows at Warner Bros, and is in post production on the Martin Scorsese-directed 3D film Hugo Cabret, which Paramount releases Nov. 23. GK has also wrapped the William Monahan-directed London Boulevard with Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley and …
Sarah Gadon has been set to star alongside Rob Pattinson in Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s next directorial effort. It’s her second straight film with the director after wrapping A Dangerous Method. Cronenberg, who adapted the Cosmopolis script from the Don DeLillo novel, has cast Gadon as the estranged wife of financial wunderkind Eric Packer (Pattinson). He risks his entire fortune to bet against the yen on a tumultuous day, a move that puts him in an assassin’s crosshairs as he moves from place to place in a limo in a study of capitalism that takes place in a slightly futuristic metropolis. Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti and Mathieu Amalric are also in the cast.
EXCLUSIVE: Robert Pattinson has booked his first major lead for when he completes The Twilight Saga. Pattinson will star in Cosmopolis, the Don DeLillo novel adaptation that David Cronenberg wrote and will direct. Pattinson, who just starred with Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz in Fox 2000′s Francis Lawrence-directed adaptation of the Sara Gruen novel Water For Elephants, will play Eric Packer. A financial wunderkind, Packer risks his entire fortune to bet against the yen on a tumultuous day. His deed puts him in the crosshairs for assassination in a drama that is a study of capitalism in a slightly futuristic metropolis. Most of the scenes in the book take place in the limousine that transports Packer from place to place. Marion Cotillard and Paul Giamatti are also reportedly doing the film, but those same reports had Colin Farrell poised to take the lead role.
As Pattinson and his Twilight Saga castmates plan their careers after the series is completed–Bill Condon is directing the final film right now, Pattinson is following a path based on strong filmmakers and tasteful source material. He took the role because he is a big fan of Cronenberg’s work and an admirer of DeLillo’s books. He’s repped by WME and 3 Arts.
Q&A With Brit Producer Jeremy Thomas: “My Advice To American Filmmakers Is To Marry A European. I’m Not Kidding.”
At a time when the UK film industry seems increasingly inward-looking, a recurring theme of the 46 films which Jeremy Thomas has produced has been cross-cultural — whether it’s Japanese director Takeshi Kitano looking at America in Brother (2000) or Bernardo Bertolucci retelling Chinese history in the Best Picture Oscar-winner The Last Emperor (1987). He also exec-produced Takeshi Miike’s 13 Assassins, which competed at Venice last month and will work on Miike’s next pic. Thomas specialises in filming the un-filmable, whether William S Burrough’s novel Naked Lunch or JG Ballard’s notorious Crash or his latest plan: a pic about North Korean dictator Kim-Jong il. Currently in post on David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Thomas gave the keynote interview at Wednesday’s Film London Production Finance Market as part of the BFI London Film Festival which is where I interviewed him.
As the former chairman of the British Film institute, he urged the British government to reconsider rejoining European super fund Eurimages to boost co-productions and had harsh words for UK leaders: “The problem with these politicians is that they’ve never made a film. They’re planning the war but they’ve never been in the trenches and had their faces splattered with blood. But when it comes to movies everybody thinks they’re an expert. It wouldn’t happen in any other business.” Thomas unlike most producers owns the rights to his films and believes that should be the endgame of any independent moviemaker. (He even owns the freehold on his office building.) He launched his own sales agency Hanway Films in 1998, which has become one of the biggest in the market. “Raising the money, shooting the film, distributing it – it’s all a nightmare,” the 61-year-old said. “But it’s better than working.”
Deadline London: Given the kind of films you make, are you disheartened by the state of filmmaking in Hollywood today?
Jeremy Thomas: Even the people who run the studios themselves – and some of them are friends of mine — when they go home at night, are dismayed that they entered a business in which they’re doing such unoriginal work. If you look at Hollywood’s output over the past decade there’s a very small percentage of original work. It’s all remakes, sequels, prequels. What you have going on in world cinema today is like a peanut compared to the 1970s. You look at the films made then compared with the films being made today – they’re thin and empty. I don’t think anybody came into the movie business to be unoriginal and plagiarising and not having an original idea in their brain. The studios are financially moribund. They are worried about their financial model because they have to spend so much money on marketing costs. Digital exhibition hasn’t saved any money. I’m still waiting to see this digital dividend.
EXCLUSIVE: DFFF, the German state feature film fund, has awarded €1.8 million ($2.3 million) to David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and €952,348 ($1.2 million) to Dark Castle’s The Apparition, starring Ashley Greene (Twilight: Eclipse). It’s also backing Joe Wright’s action movie Hanna from Focus Features, but hasn’t fixed the amount yet.
Christine Berg, head of DFFF, tells me Hollywood funding applications are coming in much later this year. It shows how difficult it has become piecing together multiparty finance. “But I’m not worried. Applications come in a little later and later each year,” she tells me.
The DFFF has awarded €10.5 million to 32 projects in the first half of 2010. It has €60 million annually to play with.
A Dangerous Method, which shot at Cologne’s MMC Studios, has already picked up €1.2 million from Germany’s Federal Film Board and regional fund Filmstiftung NRW.
Last year, the DFFF awarded €22.1 million to 38 international big-budget features including Inglorious Basterds, Anonymous and Unknown White Male.