EXCLUSIVE:Warner Bros has hired Fedor Bondarchuk to direct Odysseus, the large-scale film based on Homer’s poem The Odyssey, about the Greek king who returns after a decade away fighting the Trojan War. Jeremy Doner is writing the script. Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari is producing with Bernie Goldmann and Shannon Gaulding, as well as Bondarchuk’s partners Michael Schlicht and Paul Heth.
The film is a large-scale epic, and the Russian filmmaker’s work has been getting more and more ambitious. Bondarchuk, the son of Oscar-winning helmer Sergey Bondarchuk, is an actor, producer and on-air host who last fall directed Stalingrad, a touching WWII film about Russian soldiers who hold off the Nazis and adopt a young woman and keep her safe during an increasingly hostile campaign. The film was Russia’s first movie filmed in Imax 3D format and was nominated for multiple international prizes. Stalingrad was made for around $30 million, and even though there was a high number of action sequences involving tanks and warfare, all of it was accomplished without green screen, as Bondarchuk staged his own siege. He will become the latest offshore helmer to get a crack at a Hollywood studio film, and he has an intriguing advantage: Bondarchuk is a star director in Russia and China, two territories studios are eager to court. He’s repped by Paradigm and Magnolia Entertainment. Niija Kuykendall and Jon Gonda are overseeing for the studio.
With all the recent turmoil in Russia, there was bound to be some spillover to the entertainment industry. But are reports of a draft bill to set a 50% limit on the amount of Hollywood movies imported per annum worth getting upset over just yet? Executives I’ve spoken to in the past day don’t think so.
While Hollywood already faces a quota system in China, and while Russia seems to be acting at will these days, it would be premature to sound any alarm bells in Tinseltown, I’m told. The bill being readied at the State Duma on limiting Hollywood imports was written by Deputy Robert Schlegel of the United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin. His view, according to the Izvestia daily, is that “We basically show American films that promote the stereotypes, national interests and values of the United States… Many of these are low quality. Russia can produce its own films, which will be interesting to viewers.”
A bill aiming to cap foreign films at 20% was unsuccessful last year, and it looks unlikely a move to limit them to 50% would go forward, although Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has previously made noise about cracking down on Hollywood hegemony. Never say never, but one studio exec I spoke with feels it “doesn’t sound realistic.” Russian exhibitors, “would all be pissed off. They don’t have the movies” to fill the void that would be created. The same person added that if the aim were to blow back at the U.S. for its recent sanctions against certain officials over action in Ukraine, there are bigger fish to fry like the energy or automobile sector. “It would piss us off… It would hurt Hollywood, but doesn’t hurt America.” Read More »
All attention is on the Oscars (and Spirits) this weekend, but a couple new specialty releases managed to gain some sparkle as they rolled out in limited release. Sony Pictures Classics’ Cannes debut The Lunchbox from India reigned over a half-dozen newcomers that rolled out Friday. The feature from the subcontinent (and not a “usual Bollywood” film) found traction to the tune of $51K-plus in an NYC & LA platform release for a solid $17,108 average, while Cinedigm’s Bag Man also bowed decently, grossing over $28K for a $14,245 average.
“It’s one of those engaging foreign films that has a potential to cross over [audiences],” SPC’s Michael Barker said about the film this week. “It’s culturally Indian, however the story crosses all borders.” Barker said the film will head to up to a dozen markets the following week, eventually playing the top 50 markets within five weeks of this weekend’s initial rollout.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom do their annual Oscar preview ahead of the weekend’s festivities, to help you fill out that Oscar ballot with Pete’s choices and dark-horse candidates in all the major categories. David and Pete also preview Hollywood’s favorite beach party, the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. This year, nominees for the Spirit Awards don’t feel that independent with all the familiar names also up for Sunday’s kudos. Finally, David and Pete discuss the weekend’s notable movie debuts, led by the airplane thriller Non-Stop and the very Russian war movie Stalingrad.
Big Sony is opening Russian epic Stalingrad in a record number of IMAX theaters this weekend. The roll out may be a watershed for Russian filmmaking in the U.S. and it marks another blending of “specialty” and “Hollywood” though that isn’t really new as the grey areas have mounted for years. Hollywood’s biggest stars have long had indies intervals between studio cash cows. Cinedigm will open The Bag Man with Robert De Niro and John Cusack theatrically, while the Universal acquisition will remain with the studio’s non-theatrical lineup. Lionsgate/Codeblack will bow Repentance with Anthony Mackie and Forest Whitaker in over 150 theaters, targeting its primarily African-American audience. On the traditional end, Sony Classics will platform Cannes debut The Lunchbox this weekend, while Velvet Films will open an exclusive engagement at Film Society of Lincoln Center for Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance.
The Bag Man
Director-writer: David Grovic
Writers: Paul Conway, James Russo, Marie-Louise von Franz (inspired by her short story, The Cat)
Cast: John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa, Robert De Niro, Crispin Glover, Dominic Purcell
First-time feature filmmaker David Grovic landed quite a cast for his crime thriller The Bag Man. Starring John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa and Robert De Niro, the title centers on a criminal who bides his time at a seedy motel, waiting for his boss after killing several men and making away with a mystery bag. “We were incredibly fortunate to get essentially first choices in all the roles,” said Grovic. “Unless you’re a studio paying huge money, I think the only way you can get this quality of cast is by making it a passion project.” Grovic said that the cast responded to the script’s non-stereotypical traits including De Niro’s hair and eccentric dialog as well as Da Costa’s wonder woman outfit for starters. Read More »
The film about the epic WWII battle that turned the tide in the European theater is the highest-grossing Russian pic of all time with $66.1M. Now U.S. audiences will be able to see Stalingradin IMAX 3D theaters for a week starting February 28. Columbia Pictures will distribute director Fedor Bondarchuk’s pic, which was Russia’s entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar and is screening this week at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Stalingrad is the first Russian film shot completely in 3D and the first to be released in the giant-screen IMAX format.
Sony Pictures Releasing International will distribute Stalingrad in Russia, with a date to be set. The first Russian-made feature to go out in IMAX 3D is an epic love story set during the devastating WWII battle for Stalingrad that lasted more than six months and ended with the German army surrendering in 1943. Machete Kills‘ Alexander Rodnyansky produces with Sergey Melkumov for Non-Stop Production and Dmitry Rudovsky for Art Pictures. Inhabited Island helmer Fedor Bondarchuk directs from a script by Iliya Tilkin and Sergey Snezhkin. Here’s the trailer:
CULVER CITY, Calif., April 16, 2013 – STALINGRAD, the first Russian-made feature to be released in the immersive IMAX® 3D format, will be distributed in Russia by Sony Pictures Releasing International.
An epic love story set during one of the most devastating battles in modern history, STALINGRAD’s teaser trailer will be screened for the first time in the U.S. on April 17, 2013at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, when Sony makes its annual presentation at CinemaCon. The announcement was made today by Rory Bruer, president of Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures Releasing, and Alexander Rodnyansky, head of A.R.Films and producer of STALINGRAD. The deal was negotiated by Paul Heth of Monumental Pictures.
The movie was shot completely on location in Russia; it is directed by Fedor Bondarchuk and produced by Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov for Non-Stop Production and Dmitry Rudovsky for Art Pictures. The film is written by Iliya Tilkin and Sergey Snezhkin. The release date in Russia will be announced shortly.