EXCLUSIVE: Baltasar Kormakur, who most recently helmed Contraband and The Deep, has got studios hot and bothered over a new film he’s putting together to produce and direct. It’s an English-language thriller based on a story he hatched from his own research that centers on a real-life corruption scandal involving the release of inmates for a day to serve as hired killers for crooked politicians. These same events inspired the Filipino movie On The Job, which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Kormakur will produce through his Blueeyes Productions. XYZ Films, the production and sales company that represents the international rights to On the Job, will also produce. On The Job will be part of the package. Stay tuned. I think this will land at a studio quickly. Kormakur wrapped 2 Guns with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg starring.
Last weekend, I profiled 15 films that were generating the most buzz ahead of the compilation of the Academy’s shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar category. All nine of the films shortlisted by the Academy today appeared on that list, so while not entirely predictable, the Phase I and Executive Committee’s choices were also not a complete surprise. There’s good news for Cristian Mungiu, the Romanian director whose exclusion from the shortlist in 2008 for his lauded 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days caused widespread consternation. He’s here with Beyond The Hills, the film that took a double best actress prize in Cannes as well as the screenplay honor. The Weinstein Company is facing off against itself, with Norway’s seafaring adventure Kon-Tiki and France’s box office blockbuster The Intouchables advancing to the next round. Sony Pictues Classics has the same issue with Chile’s Pinochet-era No and Michael Haneke’s love story Amour from Austria. Haneke is the only director among the bunch to be nominated in the category (with 2009’s White Ribbon).
Focus World has Baltasar Kormakur’s The Deep, based on the true story of the sole survivor of a 1984 fishing boat accident. Also based on a true story, A Royal Affair (Magnolia Pictures) chronicles the controversial reign of Denmark’s King Christian VII. That film started its career in Berlin as did Ursula Meier’s Sister, the Swiss entry about family and belonging that Adopt Films released in the U.S. Finally, Canada’s War Witch about a young girl in wartorn sub-Saharan Africa, was also a Berlin debut. Tribeca Film has it in the U.S.
The list will be shortened again to five nominees for the official Oscar nominations January 10. Here’s the Academy’s official release this morning:
Focus Features has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the Baltasar Kormakur-directed The Deep and the film will be released by its alternative distribution initiative Focus World. The deal was just brokered by WME Global and Focus president Andrew Karpen and execs Avy Eschenasy and Ken Sanderson.
While Kormakur is making a name for himself in Hollywood after remaking his film Reykjavik-Rotterdam into the Mark Wahlberg-starrer Contraband and currently helming the Wahlberg-Denzel Washington-starrer 2 Guns, The Deep is a film he made back home in Iceland. It is the country’s submission for the foreign-language film Oscar and will be released next year.
When offshore directors make a breakthrough film and start getting those big Hollywood studio offers, too often they lose the perspective that made their early films so worth discovering. That’s not going to happen to Baltasar Kormakur, the Icelandic helmer who continues to split time between making Hollywood fare and mining Iceland for homegrown stories. Kormakur’s latest film, The Deep, was just selected by Iceland as its entry for 2013 Best Foreign Language film. A harrowing fact-based adventure tale about an Icelandic man who was the sole survivor of a fishing boat crew that sank in the dead of winter off the south coast of Iceland in 1984, the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month.
While many came to that festival to see Oscar-bait films including Argo, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook, there was quite a lineup of films that played Toronto and went on to become Foreign Film nominees including the Norwegian film Kon-Tiki by directors Espen Sandberg-Joachim Ronning, and the Danish film A Royal Affair by Nikolaj Arcel. And of course Michael Haneke’s Amour, Austria’s selection and what has to be considered the Foreign Film frontrunner.
The directors of Kon-Tiki and A Royal Affair will get their Hollywood shots, while Haneke just flat-out disdains what he feels are predictable and formulaic Hollywood films and will stay where he is. Kormakur is going at it in his own way: