The Raven is looking closer to achieving lift off. Gerard Butler is in deep negotiations to play the lead in the sci-fi conspiracy thriller that Ricardo de Montreuil is set to direct for Gold Circle Films and Universal Pictures. The feature, based on a 2010 short film by de Montreuil and Antonio Perez, was penned by Michael Gilio and Justin Marks. Butler is the second actor in as many months named for the movie’s potential lead; The Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth had been in talks before. Universal picked up rights to the short in late 2010. The studio and Gold Circle will co-finance the feature, which Gold Circle will produce and Universal will distribute worldwide Paul Brooks will produce for Gold Circle with COO Scott Niemeyer executive producing. Mark Wahlberg will produce alongside Steve Levinson, who originally brought the project to the studio. Nick Osborne, Trevor Engelson and Oly Obst will executive produce for Underground Films. Butler is repped by CAA and Alan Siegel Entertainment.
The slow recovery of the independent distribution business took a giant step at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, which featured a fast and furious flurry of big-money deals made for partially completed films whose sellers brought sizzle reels and …
EXCLUSIVE: Emmett/Furla Films has stepped up and committed to fully finance Motor City, the Albert Hughes-directed action film that stars Gerard Butler as a man who is double crossed, and seeks revenge on the guy who put him behind bars and took his woman. Gary Oldman is aboard to play the villain, and Amber Heard the woman. The film, which has a budget north of $40 million, is now set to begin production in September through EFF and Silver Pictures. Joel Silver and Andrew Rona are producing for Silver Pictures, while Randall Emmett and George Furla board as producers for EFF, along with their funding partners, Envision Entertainment’s Stepan Martirosyan and Remington Chase. Brandon Grimes is coproducer. Warner Bros will distribute domestically, while foreign rights will be sold at Cannes by Mark Damon and Foresight. CAA reps domestic rights.
LOS ANGELES – October 27, 2011 – Gerard Butler, Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey will star in Freedom Films’ upcoming action thriller “Thunder Run” with Simon West set to direct, announced Brian Presley, CEO of Freedom Films, who will produce alongside Carissa Buffel and Kevin Matusow of Freedom Films and Jib Polhemus of The Graphic Film Company. Additional casting will begin in the next week. Hyde Park International has signed on for international sales.
“Thunder Run,” is an all CG 3-D action thriller based on the novel “Thunder Run – The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent David Zucchino. Adapting the story for the screen are Academy Award-winner Robert Port and Ken Nolan, screenwriter of “Black Hawk Down.” The Graphic Film Company will utilize proprietary facial-capture technology they used on West’s upcoming “Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3-D” along with the motion capture technology used in “AVATAR.”
Harvey Weinstein just set a new air, land and sea world record for attending movie premieres. The Weinstein Company mogul managed to show up at three, count ‘em, three different premiere events in two different countries all on Monday night. “Yeah, this was some fun wasn’t it?” he deadpanned when I asked him about his landmark photo-op achievement.
Although he has been in Toronto this week, Weinstein had to go back to New York City on Monday night to attend the premiere of his company’s romantic comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It, which stars Sarah Jessica Parker and opens nationwide Friday. Then it was right back to Canada and two more North American premieres: Madonna’s directorial outing W.E. and the Ralph Fiennes-directed Coriolanus – and he made ito to both post-parties at Soho House. On one floor he was dining with Madonna and her exclusive guest list, then he did a walk-through one floor down at the Coriolanus preem. Then it was back up to the third floor, where he huddled with Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde, the stars of yet another Weinstein Company movie, Butter, which premieres here on Tuesday (I saw it in Telluride). I am told they will open the film for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run October 28 and reopen it sometime in early 2012.
As for the Madonna film, which was critically lambasted in Venice, the spin I got from one of its international reps was that it’s really not all that bad. It’s just that it’s not all that good either. There are some nice visual touches, but the material about the romance between King Edward and Wallis Simpson (written by the Material Girl herself) just isn’t all that compelling. My overall impression is that she is to be commended for trying something different with this British period piece, but for someone normally so edgy, this film very much lacks edge. It is undoubtedly an older person’s movie and facing a daunting commercial climb.
Before the film started (a half hour late), Madonna told the hometown crowd, “As you know I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, so I almost feel Canadian. Even when I have been arrested here I had a heck of a time,” she said. At the earlier Monday morning press screening, a paltry crowd of less than 100 reportedly showed up for their first opportunity to see her directing and writing effort. By the time it was finished, less than half remained in the massive 555-seat Scotiabank Theatre. But following the evening screening at the Roy Thomson Hall, the crowd gave Madonna a brief standing ovation before heading for the exits. But it wasn’t the kind of enthusiastic standing applause heard at the Machine Gun Preacher screening just one night earlier.
The 9/11 anniversary was a strong memory in Toronto because it happened right in the middle of 2001′s film festiva – even though it was business as usual today. In fact the pace of this place just seems to be quickening. Deals, as Deadline’s Mike Fleming reports, were slow to percolate but may be picking up. Most buyers I talk to are irritated by some sellers’ insistence that their film be released this year in time for Oscar consideration. That’s a tall order and leaves little time for creating a marketing campaign, much less an awards strategy. Nevertheless, that was one of the demands made by the sellers of the controversial Shame during negotiations. Fox Searchlight agreed, others didn’t. In fact I was told that Sony Pictures Classics, which wanted the picture, came up with a smart strategy they compared to The Weinstein Company’s for Colin Firth. That consisted of Firth doing a lot of campaigning and earning a nomination for A Single Man in 2010, thus laying the groundwork for his The King’s Speech win the next year. SPC was going to put Michael Fassbender out there and get him recognition for their November release of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and then release Shame later in 2012 for a one-two punch that the Academy would notice. No go. The sales people behind Shame insisted it be released this year, thereby throwing the Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor winner into an already overcrowded awards race that among others includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, and Leonardo DiCaprio who are better known — at least at this point.
One former studio head-turned-producer complained loudly to me today that this kind of strategy is not necessarily what’s good for the movie and asked, “Isn’t that what we should be concerned with over anything else?” For example, Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg is here with his first release Killer Elite but is not rushing into a year-end release if it might end up hurting the bottom line. “Isn’t the 2012 Oscar race just as good as this year’s?” he asked. He might consider putting the Liam Neeson film The Grey into a year-end qualifying run since Neeson’s performance is said to be so strong. But only if it was in the best interest of the film. When he was at Lionsgate, Ortenberg acquired Crash at Toronto but held it for a May release. Then he did a now-legendary and successful Oscar campaign almost 1 1/2 years after the Toronto buy. The same strategy worked for The Hurt Locker two years ago. Both went on to win Best Picture.
Nevertheless, several films for sale in Toronto are said to be eyeing a 2011 release in order to get into the Oscar race. These include Luc Besson’s The Lady, which premieres Monday night and which I have already seen. It contains two powerhouse performances from Michelle Yeoh who could jump into the lead actress race. There’s also David Thewlis for Supporting Actor. The Lady will certainly be part of any sales discussion, but I know of at least one mini-major who would like the film but just not for this year. As I mentioned yesterday, Barrymore with its sensational title performance from Christopher Plummer also wants to make a deal that includes a 2011 year-end release. Also director Zhang Yimou’s epic The Flowers of War (formerly Nanking) starring Oscar-winner Christian Bale had a 20-minute footage presentation here and hopes to get a domestic deal in place in time for a possible year-end run at Oscar. I am told it could certainly be ready what with its debut in Beijing in December.
Relativity Media is up with a trailer for Machine Gun Preacher, the Marc Forster-directed drama that’s based on the true story of Sam Childers, a rough guy who changed his life and found purpose in establishing a haven for Sudanese children. Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon star in …
The 2011 Toronto Film Festival has selected David Hare’s spy drama Page Eight, starring Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, as its closing-night film and added a slew of Gala premieres and Special Presentations that boost the star wattage with the likes of Robert De Niro, Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, James Gandolfini and Gerard Butler. The additions to the previously announced film slate includes a Future Projects lineup that features James Franco and Gus Van Sant reminiscing about My Own Private Idaho, a documentary about Exit through the Gift Shop‘s Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta), and Peter Lynch’s Buffalo Days; and a Wavelengths program of international experimental films. Here is the release about the additional Galas and Special Presentations:
Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival® announces the addition of 8 Galas and 17 Special Presentations to the high-calibre selection of crowd-pleasers premiering in September. Today’s announcement includes 14 World Premieres and reveals that Festival-goers will be treated to a programming lineup featuring world premieres from directors including Nick Murphy, Gary McKendry, Joel Schumacher, Gianni Amelio, Agnieszka Holland, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Pankaj Kapur, Anne Fontaine, Mathieu Kassovitz and Geoffrey Fletcher. The films unveiled today feature onscreen appearances by Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Shahid Kapur, Isabelle Huppert, Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel and James Gandolfini, among others.
This announcement brings the final number of Galas to 20, and the final number of Special Presentations to 67.
Closing Night Film
David Hare, United Kingdom International Premiere
Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file, threatening the stability of the organization. Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny’s striking next-door neighbour and political activist Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) seems too good to be true. Set in London and Cambridge, Page Eight is a contemporary spy film which addresses intelligence issues and moral dilemmas peculiar to the new century. Also stars Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.