Word has just gone out internally that Focus Features International is shuttering in December. There were 16 people who worked there, most of them will be out of jobs, and the London office is closing by year’s end. This is hardly a surprise, after Peter Schlessel was named the new head of Focus and supplanted topper James Schamus, and after that Andrew Karpen declined to relocate to the Universal lot and made his own plans to leave.
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All the films that were greenlit under the former Focus regime will continue to be serviced and delivered to buyers when they are complete. Beyond that, Focus will use Universal Pictures International to distribute some of its films overseas, and some will be done independently using an outside sales agent. A lot of these Focus Features International staff will be at AFM, and will continue to sell the films already in the pipeline. So give them a pat on the back and buy them a drink, willya?
EXCLUSIVE: As part of the revamp at Focus Features, I’m hearing that London-based international sales arm Focus Features International is likely next to shutter. The news comes three weeks after Deadline revealed the company is closing its New York office and centralizing operations in LA. The timing of FFI’s closing is unclear, believed to be due to certain UK laws that require a consideration period, but I understand this could be official within a few weeks. It is not known for certain whether some staff would be relocated and international sales of Focus films would continue from the U.S. base. Another scenario would see international sales cease entirely, with movies going through parent company Universal.
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FFI, overseen by co-president Alison Thompson, has been a key fixture on the global scene. At Cannes in May a hot title was the Focus Features pic Black Sea starring Jude Law among its films. Other titles on FFI’s recent slate have included the Woody Allen pic Blue Jasmine, the Amy Winehouse documentary from director Asif Kapadia, and Julian Temple’s Marvin Gaye biopic. In Toronto this fall it handled the Toronto Midnight Madness horror pic Oculus from Relativity and Blumhouse Prods.
Related: TOLDJA! Andrew Karpen Not Staying At Focus Features
In a multi-territory deal, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition has acquired Germany, Austria, German-speaking Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Latin America on Focus‘ Jude Law-starrer Black Sea. Kevin Macdonald is directing the film about a submarine captain on a risky hunt for sunken treasure. FFI also sealed a deal with BackUp Media which invested against rights in France, Benelux and French-speaking Switzerland. Other territories sold include Australia and New Zealand (eOne), China, CIS, Israel and South Africa.
Focus Features International will sell worldwide rights to the untitled biopic that Julien Temple will direct with Rent and Law & Order‘s Jesse L. Martin starring as the iconic soul singer with the sweet voice and troubled personal life. Script is by Matthew Broughton, and In Bruges‘ Brendan Gleeson will play the role of Freddy Cousaert, who met Marvin Gaye in 1981 in the Belgian fishing village of Ostend when the singer was battling everything from drug problems to the IRS. Cousaert helped the singer regain his mojo, leading to a comeback that included hits like Sexual Healing. Vicky Krieps (Hanna) also stars and Dwight Henry (the bakery owner who played Hushpuppy’s father in Beasts Of The Southern Wild) will play Gaye’s father, who silenced his son with a gunshot.
Related: Jesse L. Martin To Play Marvin Gaye, Replaces Lenny Kravitz Read More »
Timothy Spall is attached to star in the next film from Mike Leigh. Focus Features International will begin worldwide sales in Cannes in May, on the film about British landscape watercolorist J.M.W. Turner. Turner was a pioneering and controversial figure in his day, but is now considered one of the most celebrated artists in British history. FFI, which worked with Leigh on Another Year, will co-finance with BFI and Film4. Leigh said, “Turner as a character is compelling. I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived. But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces.” Georgina Lowe is producing through Thin Man Films with Xofa Productions. Gail Egan, Tessa Ross and Norman Merry are exec producing. Co-producers are Michel Saint Jean of Diaphana Films and Malte Grunert of Amusement Park Films.
Andrew Adamson is attached to direct House star Hugh Laurie in Mister Pip, an adaptation of the Lloyd Jones novel that Adamson has adapted for the screen. Shooting will begin in New Zealand next month, and Focus Features International has acquired international rights.
Laurie will play Mr. Watts, the last white man left on the war-torn island of Bougainville. Asked to open a school there, he reads the kids his favorite novel, Great Expectations. He bonds with the children over the book, which sheds some perspective on their own difficult lives. Adamson will produce with Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech and Robin Scholes. Eyeworks New Zealand and Agio Capital are co-financing with Olympus Pictures, and the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ on Air and TV3 are also investors. UTA Independent Film Group put together the pieces.
Adamson, who co-directed the first two installments of Shrek and directed the first two The Chronicles of Narnia films, is also aligned with James Cameron on a series of 3D Cirque du Soleil features, the first of which has already been shot.
Tom Hanks has become officially attached to star in Cloud Atlas, an adaptation of the David Mitchell novel that consists of six interconnected stories. The Matrix helmers Andy and Lana Wachowski and Run Lola Run helmer Tom Tykwer have signed on to write and co-direct the film. Warner Bros is set to distribute the film in North America, and Focus Features International has signed on to handle international sales and distribution of the film overseas. They will sell rights at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.
Shooting on the film will begin in September. The logline: An epic story of humankind in which the actions and consequences of our lives impact one another throughout the past, present and future as one soul is shaped from a murderer into a savior and a single act of kindness ripples out for centuries to inspire a revolution. The film has been rumored for some time, with James McAvoy and Halle Berry among the actors who’ve been rumored to take part.
The film will be produced by Five Drops’ Grant Hill and Stefan Arndt, with Philip Lee exec producing.