Each year, Harvey Weinstein has taken time out from his Sundance buying frenzies to do an Oscar-season interview that touches on his Academy hopefuls, all the films he bought in Park City, and politics. Well, January’s Sundance couldn’t have been duller — outside of his multiplatform arm RADiUS, The Weinstein Company made zero buys there for the first time in forever — but so much has happened since that we needed a catch-up call to get it all in. Here, Weinstein touches on everything from watching Philomena get the Best Picture Oscar nomination over higher-profile TWC films to Quentin Tarantino’s leaked The Hateful Eight script to his battle with Warner Bros over The Hobbit gross points, to the NRA. And, just as he came out of Toronto with the big acquisition in Can A Song Save Your Life?, Weinstein walked away from Berlin with The Imitation Game, the drama about genius British mathematician Alan Turing, whose work cracking the Nazi Enigma Code made him a bona fide WWII hero but who later was prosecuted for being homosexual, chemically castrated and eventually committed suicide.
DEADLINE: We started this interview at the tail end of Sundance and you uncharacteristically hadn’t bought a single movie. You went right to Berlin and paid a record $7 million for U.S. rights to The Imitation Game. What happened?
WEINSTEIN: One of the things I’ve never been great at is discipline, but we just didn’t feel like there was anything we had to have at Sundance. We decided that, like with Can A Song Save Your Life? at Toronto, we wanted the movie. Imitation Game was a project all of us followed, and those 20 minutes gave that zeitgeist feeling to me, David Glasser, everyone on our team. Negeen Yazdi, who runs our English office, tracked this one so hard that it was like she was trying to break the Enigma Code.
DEADLINE: How hard is it to make such a big commitment based on a 20 minute compilation of scenes?
WEINSTEIN: It was easier in that we all knew the script and could see the level of performance Morten Tyldum got in his first English language film. Alan Turing is not outwardly very sympathetic. He’s brilliant, but the way that Benedict Cumberbatch played him showed us these guys found the right level of vulnerability, genius and the arrogance of the character, too. We felt after reading the script that you could get this wrong, from the tone to the casting. The reason we didn’t make it ourselves was, it felt like a near impossible walk on a tightrope. Morten walked the tightrope. And Keira Knightley is so brilliant in Can A Song Save Your Life and she was helpful and loyal in pushing it our way that we wanted this huge run she is about to have to be with us.