I tipped this as one of the hot titles of this year’s Toronto Film Festival. The Dante Ariola-directed comedic love story is being sold by CAA and UTA and premieres here Monday. Colin Firth and Emily Blunt star in the story of a depressed divorced dad who fakes his death and adopts a new identity, then meets a troubled woman who spurs him on to new heights during a cross-country road trip. Becky Johnston wrote the script. Here’s an exclusive clip:
Universal’s The Five Year Engagement opens April 27, 2012 and stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. It’s helmed by Nicholas Stoller, who directed Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Stoller and Segel co-wrote this one, and Judd Apatow and Rodney Rothman produced.
UPDATE 2, 7:03PM: CBS Films has just issued a press release confirming the acquisition:
TORONTO (September 12) – CBS Films announced today that they have acquired the U.S.distribution rights to SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN which made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival this week. The announcement was made jointly today by CBS Films’ COO Wolfgang Hammer and EV Pof Acquisitions Scott Shooman.
Directed by Oscar©-nominee Lasse Hallström (Chocolat), SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is an extraordinary, beguiling tale of fly-fishing and politicalspinning, of unexpected heroism and late-blooming love and of an attempt toprove the impossible, possible. Ewan McGregor (Beginners) and Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau) star in the feature film alongside Oscar©-nominee Kristen ScottThomas (I’ve Loved You So Long).
Based on Paul Torday’s acclaimed novel, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is written by Oscar©-winner Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and produced by Paul Webster (The Motorcycle Diaries) and executive produced by Jamie Laurenson, Stephen Garrett, Paula Jalfon, Zygi Kamasa and Guy Avshalom.
“I am so happy to have the support of the team at CBS Films for the distribution of our labor of love, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. ’I had the best of times working on it with producer Paul Webster, writer Simon Beaufoy and the cast, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas,” said Hallström.
“Lasse Hallström has done it again with this beautiful, heartwarming, and elegant picture. The performances are amazing from top to bottom,” commented Shooman who continued, “We are honored to have the opportunity to bring this extraordinary film to American audiences.”
UTA Independent Film Group set up the film’s financing and brokered the dealwith CBS Films.
UPDATE, 6:11PM: The deal has closed, and CBS Films has acquired U.S. rights to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Sources close to the buyer say it’s the $4 million that the sellers asked for, while sources close to the seller say it’s $5 million. Summit got the deal to that level. What’s clear is this is a healthy deal.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 12:26 PM: CBS Films is in advanced negotiations to reel in U.S. distribution rights to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the Lasse Hallstrom-directed film that premiered last night at the Princess of Wales Theater. Fox Searchlight, Summit, Focus and Miramax have been circling, but CBS appears to be tying down the property for a low-seven-figure deal. Adapted by Simon Beaufoy from the Paul Torday novel, the film stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The sheik believes that fishing brings him closer to God, an experience he wants to share with his countrymen, despite the dangerous fact that some local leaders oppose it; there is a burgeoning love story between his British legal rep (Blunt) and the stuffy fisheries scientist (McGregor) who is locked in a dull marriage.
Just as it did last year, the 2011 Toronto Film Festival has gotten off to a slow start on the acquisitions front. I spoke with many buyers after last night’s onslaught of acquisition title premieres, and the common feeling was these distributors need to fill slots in their schedules and they want to fall in love, but haven’t quite gotten there yet with most of these films. They had some reservations on just about all of the films they saw. These films will clearly find distribution homes, but the reaction means that deals will drag out because those distributors aren’t going to be posting large minimum guarantees, the way they did in Cannes.
Even the big sale of the festival so far, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 sex drama Shame, wasn’t a huge commitment for all the press hoopla that followed Deadline’s reveal that the film had sold to Fox Searchlight. I am hearing the deal was a mid-six figure minimum guarantee around $400,000, and a P&A commitment around $1.5 million. That sounds about right, because the filmmakers were most concerned with entering this year’s Oscar race to capitalize on the performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and ensuring that not a frame of the picture was changed. But it doesn’t sound like a wide release picture.
As for the wide release titles, they are going to sell, but it will be a struggle for sellers to get the dollars they want. I saw one of those titles that sit atop buyer lists last night. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was scripted by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The film is sophisticated, funny, timely and utterly charming, and I would be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by Monday or sooner. That film got the best reaction from the buyers I spoke with. The pace of auctioning has been complicated by the volume of premieres last night, including Rampart, Take This Waltz, The Oranges, the hockey comedy Goon and the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con: A Fan’s Hope. Buyers had to make choices, and some were seeing films like Salmon this morning. I expect a flurry of deals toward the end of the festival, which is how it played out last year.
Since there’s little going on so far, you have time to notice things. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:
After making a splash by funding the wildly profitable Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan, Timmy Thompson and Brian Oliver’s Cross Creek Pictures has become an increasing presence in the independent film producing and finance game. To help manage the growing project volume, they’ve hired Becky Sloviter to be senior vice president of development and production. She started work yesterday and had most recently been veep of development and production at MGM, where she worked on such titles as the Kevin James-starrer Zookeeper and the Drew Goddard-directed The Cabin in the Woods, as well as the musical Valley Girl which is on a fast track at MGM. Before that, Sloviter had been a production exec at Stuber/Parent Productions.
CANNES: FilmDistrict Acquires U.S. Rights To Joe Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis Sci-Fi Action Film ‘Looper’
EXCLUSIVE: A frenzied Saturday auction on the Croisette has ended with FilmDistrict in final negotiations for U.S. distribution rights to Looper, the Rian Johnson-directed science fiction film that stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis. There were at least six bidders spanning major studios and independents, and it sounds like some serious upfront money was paid. But the intriguing part is that the deal orchestrated between CAA and FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel will likely end in FilmDistrict using an option with Sony Pictures, which would release and market the film through the TriStar label. That replicates the distribution structure of District 9, which Schlessel acquired while he was at Sony. The picture has a similarly brainy construct and is also reminiscent of the first Terminator.
Johnson wrote the script, about a contract killer who works for the mob of the future, and who kills victims that are sent back in time 30 years, so there is no trace of the crime in the future. It’s a great gig, until the killer (Gordon-Levitt) recognizes that one of his targets (Willis) is a futuristic version of himself. Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also star. The film was financed by Endgame’s James Stern, who produced with Johnson’s partner Ram Bergman.
CAA still has to paper the deal, but that likely gives Sony and Amy Pascal its second release schedule addition in the last 24 hours. As Deadline revealed early Saturday, the studio acquired the David Frankel-directed Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell starring.
UPDATE: Fox is negotiating with The Devil’s Double star Dominic Cooper to play Abe Lincoln’s mentor Henry, the mysterious ageless guy who teaches Abe to kill bloodsuckers. The studio had been in talks with Joaquin Phoenix for …
Touchstone has a new trailer out for Gnomeo and Juliet, the animated feature that will be released February 11. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt are the title characters, and Jason Statham, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith and Patrick Stewart round out the voice cast.
Disney just released what it’s calling the “first image” for GNOMEO & JULIET, the greatest love story ever told, starring garden gnomes. Adapted from Shakespeare, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) with classic and original songs by Elton John, it features the voices of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt: