When Abel Ferrara‘s Welcome To New York screened in Cannes on Saturday night, Wild Bunch‘s Vincent Maraval was asked about potential lawsuits given the film’s source of inspiration. He responded that the movie was made under American law and had been well vetted by attorneys. But, he tossed out, if anyone wants to “make us publicity, they are welcome.” Looks like he’s getting his way as a lawsuit brews and accusations of anti-Semitism surface.
Related: Cannes: Abel Ferrara’s Sex Scandal Pic ‘Welcome To New York’ Penetrates La Plage
Welcome To New York is inspired by the 2011 sex scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Gérard Depardieu, in various instances of near-pornographic debauchery, stars as Mr Devereaux, a high-ranking French government offical who is detained in New York after he sexually assaults a hotel maid. Jacqueline Bisset plays his wife Simone, an heiress to a fortune amassed during World War II and a financial supporter of Israel. On France’s Europe 1 radio this morning, Strauss-Kahn’s attorney Jean Veil said his client has instructed his lawyers “to file a suit for defamation owing to the accusations of rape and insinuations which run throughout the film.” Veil said a suit would be filed within a few days, but that Strauss-Kahn had not, and will not, see the movie based on the recommendations of friends that he “protect himself.” He added that he agreed with Strauss-Kahn’s ex-wife Anne Sinclair who on Sunday called the film “anti-Semitic.” Read More »
Cannes for me is an exercise in chasing big-money movie deals, but I took the opportunity to meet several French companies to get a view of the business from their side of the pond. Compared to the problems I hear from Hollywood, these guys struggle for growth in a French theatrical system that seems completely preposterous to an Americain.
In Hollywood, they whine about how hard it is to get a movie made; about a weekend crowded with three new releases; the inefficiency of big P&A spends to advertise on TV to ensure moviegoers show up opening weekend; and the six-month wait for DVD and VOD. In France, a heavily subsidized system makes getting movies made the easy part. The downside: 15-18 films open week in and week out; TV advertising is outlawed, and the wait for DVD and VOD is an eternity compared to the U.S. Small wonder several of the major French companies are looking outside elsewhere for growth.
Related: Cannes: EuropaCorp Signs $450M Credit Facility To Finance English-Language Pics
For a company like Gaumont, that means supplementing Centrée Français fare by hatching U.S. market TV hits like Hannibal. Wild Bunch’s core business is backing gutsy films like Blue Is The Warmest Color, but at this Cannes, the company created a stir showing a film before its precedent-setting straight-to-VOD release. Welcome To New York is Abel Ferrara’s lurid drama that stars Gerard Depardieu as a crass, horny money man based on former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who cut a decadent swath around the world before being arrested for allegedly mauling a maid in a New York hotel. Because Wild Bunch bypassed theaters, it could spend $1 million on TV ads, creating more awareness than if it had gone theatrical and could not advertise. Success will mean more films with bigger stars test this new market and that could be as disruptive to France’s arcane theatrical machine as the current crop of pay and cable TV series like True Detective feel compared to the derivative product churned out by Hollywood movie studios.
Related: Cannes: Abel Ferrara’s Sex Scandal Pic ‘Welcome To New York’ Penetrates La Plage
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Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Chris Zois’ Welcome To New York, inspired by the 2011 sex scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had its world premiere here in Cannes tonight. Once thought to be a candidate for an Official Selection berth, it instead unspooled in an unofficial capacity inside a tent erected at Nikki Beach (see NSFW trailer below). Stars Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset were on hand for a post-screening press conference about the film that has made headlines ever since it was first floated as a project — and more so now due to an unconventional release plan. Depardieu plays Mr Devereaux, a man who handles billions of dollars a day, controls the economic fate of nations, and dreamed of saving the world but cannot save himself. Bisset plays his wife, Simone. The characters are inspired by Strauss-Kahn and Anne Sinclair. The former was famously alleged in May 2011 to have sexually assaulted a New York hotel employee, but charges were ultimately dropped. Sinclair is a French journalist and heiress from whom the former IMF chief is now divorced.
Although the film comes with a disclaimer at the beginning, there are clear parallels between Devereaux and Strauss-Kahn. Asked if they were concerned about lawsuits, Vincent Maraval, co-founder of production, finance and sales company Wild Bunch, said the movie was made under American law and had been well vetted by attorneys. But, he tossed out, if anyone wants to “make us publicity, they are welcome”. The movie begins with some pretty debauched sex scenes that show Devereaux partying with a coterie of men and women in a hotel suite — they are not for the faint of heart. Depardieu called the subject matter reminiscent of Shakespearian tragedy. He said he was shocked when he saw the film because some of the sex was very violent, but he tried not to pin the characters to “right or wrong.” Devereaux’s character “knows he is sick. … I didn’t want to ask too many questions.” Ferrara also said he was “not making a judgment” with the film. When he showed it to Bernardo Bertolucci recently, the veteran Italian helmer remarked it reminded him of a Warhol film. “It is what it is,” Ferrara said. For those who might consider some of the footage borderline porn, Depardieu cautioned to laughter: “It’s not porno at all. To be porno, you have to see the big dick.” Spoiler alert: There is a scene in which Depardieu’s private parts are exposed, but it’s during a strip search inside a stark prison, so not exactly sexy. Read More »
Looks like an unwavering release strategy for Blue Is The Warmest Color has paid off for French distributor Wild Bunch. The Cannes Palme d’Or-winning love story went out yesterday in France and landed atop the Paris box office in its first 2 PM showings, outperforming both Disney’s Planes and the Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Prisoners. Planes was No. 1 in the whole of the country for the day, early rankings show, followed by Blue and Prisoners. In Paris, however, the Blue curious were out in droves for the first showings, bringing the film 3,286 admissions on 26 screens versus 2,581 on 20 screens for Planes and 1,629 for Prisoners on 19 screens. The result gives Blue bragging rights as the top French debut of the year and puts it in the top 10 openers overall for 2013. (Full results for the day are still being tallied in France.) Wild Bunch notoriously stuck to its guns on maintaining an October 9th release date, even though that put the movie out of possible consideration as France’s entry for the Foreign Language Oscar race. Sundance Selects has set an October 25th limited release in the U.S. for the film, which will be rated NC-17 stateside.
Related: OSCARS: Cannes Winner Ineligible For Foreign Language Category
Yesterday’s announcement that Gilles Bourdos’ period drama Renoir would be France’s entry for the Foreign-Language Oscar race was a bit of a head-scratcher. Once it became clear a few months ago that Cannes Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color (aka Adèle: Chapters 1&2) would not be eligible, other possible titles were floated including previous Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s The Past. But Renoir was not really on the radar — not the least because it had debuted in a Cannes sidebar in 2012. Academy Foreign Language rules stipulate that a film must be released domestically between October 1st and September 30th and Renoir was a fit because it went out in January this year in France. Blue, however, is not releasing until October 9th, meaning it misses the cut-off. Many have wondered why Wild Bunch, which is distributing Blue in France, would not change the October 9th date to qualify. Company co-founder Vincent Maraval tells me today, “There was never any question for us to modify in any way our release strategy to legitimize the stupidity of the Oscar rules. Should we risk our strategy for France for a Foreign Language Film Oscar which doesn’t add anything to a Palme d’Or?” He contends that the Foreign Language Oscar “no longer means anything for a film that was crowned in Cannes” and says the rules are “unique, specific and make no sense. At the same time, no one cares about this category. We’re aiming for (Blue) in all categories, the only ones that count.”
Related: OSCARS: Cannes Palme d’Or Winner Ineligible For Foreign Language Category
Of Renoir, which Wild Bunch sold internationally, Maraval says it’s “a perfect film for the Academy: classic, esthetic and cultural in the same vein as (1994 Foreign Language Oscar winner) Belle Epoque or (1991 winner) Mediterraneo. It got rave reviews from U.S. critics and it’s the highest-grossing French film in the U.S. this year with $2.2M. Objectively, it’s the most legitimate candidate.” Read More »
WestEnd Films Seals Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’
International sales company WestEnd Films has closed a raft of deals on David Gordon Green’s drama Joe, starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. The film debuted in Venice, where Sheridan won the best newcomer prize. The Worldview Entertainment-produced and -financed film then appeared in Toronto, where deals were sealed with Japan (CCC), Australia (Madman), Benelux (Cinéart) and Scandinavia (Non Stop). Artificial Eye picked it up in the UK, and the film had previously sold to 15 territories include France (Wild Side), Germany (Koch Media), Latin America (Swen), China (Media Asia), Israel (United King), and Greece (Spentzos Films). CAA is repping the North America rights, with Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions and Magnolia Pictures being the front-runners as of Friday.
Vodafone Set To Acquire Germany’s Kabel Deutschland For $10.2B
Shareholders of Kabel Deutschland — Germany’s largest cable company — voted Friday to accept Vodafone’s buyout offer of €87 ($115.70) a share, which includes a €2.50 dividend payment. Vodafone, Germany’s top mobile network with 32 million subscribers, said the required 75% minimum of Kabel investors had been met. The deal, which gives Vodafone 7.6 million cable subs, continues its strategy of offsetting declining revenue by selling mobile phone subscriptions alongside TV, landline and broadband services. Reuters reported Friday that three hedge funds that tendered shares enabling Vodafone’s successful Kabel bid plan to sue for a better price for their outstanding holdings.
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Oscar-winning Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki once said he thought he’d stop making features after 1997′s Princess Mononoke. Instead, he went on to such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. Today in Venice, Koju Hoshino, president of Miyazaki’s production company Studio Ghibli, announced that the director’s competition title, The Wind Rises, will be his last film. Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval, who confirms the news, says, “For me, he is simply the greatest animator that ever was.” Wild Bunch is a longtime collaborator of Miyazaki’s and is handling world sales on The Wind Rises. Maraval calls Miyazaki’s retirement “the end of an era.” Knowing there will be no more “Ponyo or Catbus or monsters or witches or resourceful little girls, is very strange,” Maraval adds. “At the same time, he is ending on a masterpiece that leaves us with his great humanism and a vision of our century to contemplate.” Hoshino did not take questions at a Venice press conference, saying there will be a special one held in Tokyo next week. “He wants to say goodbye to all of you.” Miyazaki’s 2004 film Howl’s Moving Castle was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. In 2001, he won the Oscar in that category with Spirited Away. Disney is releasing The Wind Rises under the Touchstone … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: When controversial French sensation Blue Is The Warmest Color won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, it was expected to be a major player in the upcoming Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. Now it’s ineligible to compete and not even impassioned pleas from Sundance Selects, its American distributor, have done the trick. This unexpected development as first reported on Deadline is due to its October 9th French opening. Local distributor Wild Bunch will not change the date in order to comply with an arcane Academy rule that says each film must have opened in the country of origin by the end of September. Now Sundance Selects/IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring who picked up the U.S. rights to Blue in Cannes is very disappointed that this decision appears irreversible. “I talked to them about it and said it was a missed opportunity if you don’t qualify it. So they actually were going to do a qualification run in the town where it was shot in Northern France,” Sehring tells me. “But ultimately the French governing body said no. It had to be a wide release in order for it to qualify and so [Wild Bunch] called and said ‘We don’t want to move off our date. We have a great date.’ It’s unfortunate.”
Although it won’t help Blue this year, Sehring hopes the Academy will deep-six the September 30th eligibility date and change it in the future to be more reflective of the realities of the international film industry. “It’s a global business right now and [it's not good] to hold the Foreign Language titles to a September 30th date. This present Academy administration has been really great about re-visiting things that don’t really make sense and I’m just hoping that will happen.” However as a distributor he does fully understand the Wild Bunch decision and its box office potential in France. “What could be better than that for them? If the French want to choose it as next year’s title I can always hope there, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in terms of qualification,” he said.
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Two international sales and finance powerhouses are getting on the China bandwagon. IM Global has enlisted former Huayi Brothers exec Leslie Chen to head up its new Beijing operation. The offices will be open at the end of the month where IM Global’s pan-Asian distribution label Apsara will be based. Chen will manage much of the company’s international sales activity in the region as well as overseeing the release of IM Global’s films in mainland China.
Meanwhile, France’s Wild Bunch is partnering with Beijing-based production and distribution group Taihe Pictures to create a sales and distribution outfit Taihe Wild Bunch. The company will focus on acquiring international distribution rights for Chinese movies with crossover potential and will exploit Wild Bunch’s catalog, including remake rights, in China. Wild Bunch has deep ties to China having worked with such filmmakers as Lou Ye, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou over the past several years. Read More »
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Ed Westwick Has A ‘Bone In The Throat’
EXCLUSIVE: Ed Westwick will play the lead in the film adaptation of Anthony Bourdain’s foodie noir thriller novel Bone In The Throat. Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises, Revenge) and Liam Cunningham (Game Of Thrones) have also joined the cast of the film to be helmed by commercials director Graham Henman in his feature debut. He co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Townend. Lenny Beckerman and Peter Heslop are producing the story of a sous-chef at the hottest restaurant in London’s East End who becomes embroiled in his uncle’s underground mob activity when he witnesses him commit a murder. Executive producer Maggie Monteith of Dignity Film Finance is backing the picture set to shoot in London in the fall. Westwick is repped by Michael Hallett at Emptage Hallet. Cunningham and Gorman are repped by Management 360 and the UK’s Independent Talent.
Fox, Bulgari Roll Out Red Carpet For Cannes ‘Cleopatra’
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is partnering with jeweler Bulgari to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s legendary Cleopatra. A restored 243-minute version will have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, hosted by Jessica Chastain and attended by members of the families of stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The screening will be followed by a reception featuring pieces on display from Taylor’s personal jewelry collection. The exhibition also will include original costumes from the film which are on loan from Cinecittà. Following the Cannes premiere, Twentieth Century Fox will release Cleopatra in limited theatrical engagements in more than 200 theaters around the world. The 50th anniversary Blu-ray Cleopatra debuts May 28. Read More »
Worldview Entertainment has grabbed U.S. rights from Wild Bunch to the Arnaud Desplechin-directed drama Jimmy P, which stars Benicio Del Toro and makes its debut in competition at Cannes. CAA repped Worldview in the deal, and the financier/producer will partner on the film with a U.S. distributor. That gives Worldview three titles at Cannes with the James Gray-directed The Immigrant and the Guillaume Canet-directed Blood Ties also in the mix.
Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
An editorial written by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval has whipped up a mini-storm within the French film industry. The exec, who’s had a hand in such films as The Artist, The Wrestler, Pan’s Labyrinth, Fahrenheit 9/11, City Of God and March Of The Penguins, blasted the current state of French cinema, calling 2012 a “disaster”. France enjoys possibly the world’s most generous subsidy system which relies in part on investment by local TV networks, but Maraval says “even the biggest commercial successes lose money” with budgets inflated by above the line costs. Calling France “the world record holder for the average cost of production” after the U.S., Maraval says “French actors are rich from public funds and from a system that protects the cultural exception.” Maraval cites such talent as Vincent Cassel, Jean Reno, Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet and Audrey Tautou and asks why they would “be paid from €500,000 to €2M ($655K to $2.62M) for a French film limited to the French market but when they shoot an American film, whose market is worldwide, they’re happy with €50,000 to €200,000 ($65.5K to $262K)? Read More »
EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: Memphis, Paul Greengrass‘ film about the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King, is coming back around. Now, I hear that steps are underway to make Memphis Greengrass’ next directorial outing. I’ve heard that Veritas is in talks to finance with Wild Bunch. You might recall the picture was shelved after Universal Pictures dropped out, and Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin shelved it because it became too difficult to set up new financing and shoot the film so that it could be released during the MLK weekend holiday. Greengrass and Rudin moved on to make Captain Phillips, the Sony drama about the Somali pirate heist that stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips.
Related: Opposition To MLK Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz
The script depicts Dr. King’s final days as he struggled to organize a protest march on behalf of striking black municipal sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was slain. That storyline is juxtaposed with an intense manhunt for King’s assassin James Earl Ray, involving some of the federal authorities who, at Hoover’s direction, had dogged King’s every step with wiretaps and whispering campaigns before the civil rights leader’s death. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Continuing its steady pace of pick-ups, The Weinstein Co has acquired French comedy Haute Cuisine from Wild Bunch. The Christian Vincent-directed pic is based on the true story of Danièle Delpeuch who was the private cook to late French President, François Mitterrand. Catherine Frot stars with French novelist Jean D’Ormesson in his first feature role. The story follows a renowned chef from Perigord who is appointed by the president as his personal cook. D’Ormesson’s chief of state falls in love with her cooking and despite resentment from the rest of the staff, the spirited chef establishes herself. But, the halls of the Elysée Palace are littered with traps. The film was co-scripted by Of Gods And Men‘s Etienne Comar and the director. Comar produced via his Armada Films Production with Philippe Rousselet for Vendome.
Wild Bunch hits Cannes next week with a colossal 14 films in official selection and one each in Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight. Co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval tells me that’s a record for the company that last year unveiled The Artist at the festival.
There are also 4 new films debuting on the sales slate including Brian De Palma’s Passion starring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Paul Anderson. The Saïd Ben Saïd-produced film is De Palma’s own spin on Alain Corneau’s 2010 thriller Crime D’Amour about a power struggle between a ruthless executive and her protégé. Wild Bunch is also handling Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali’s Haunter with Abigail Breslin. The supernatural thriller/ghost story focuses on a young girl and her family who have been trapped in their house since they died there in 1986. Steve Hoban is producing the currently shooting film from Copperheart Entertainment.
After 2010’s Film Socialisme, Jean-Luc Godard is back with Wild Bunch and Goodbye To Language 3D. Godard’s films are typically tough to describe, but Maraval tells me this one involves a couple and a dog who helps them communicate when they’re no longer able. Rounding out the new titles is Marina de Van’s English-language horror tale Dark Touch from Agat Films, Ex-Nihilo and Element Pictures. This one focuses on a young girl whose family is murdered by their house. When she tries to convince the police of the house’s rage, no one believes her. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday a French blog released a list of what it contended was the official Cannes selection for 2012. The blog said the list had been briefly published on the official Cannes Film Festival website before hastily being pulled down. A number of other sites have picked up the list, but Deadline will not. This was an April Fools joke, and not a very funny one. I spoke to Cannes general delegate and artistic director Thierry Frémaux this morning who tells me “There was no internet leak.” Indeed, it would be impossible for the list to leak given it’s not completed and, as Frémaux says, “The selection is in my head.” He further tells me, “This is all lies and it’s disgusting to play with such a thing. Cannes is an institution and must be preserved. There is a code of conduct for Cannes and it must be respected. Those who don’t respect the code, will never come back to Cannes.” Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval put the list down to an irresponsible prank telling me that some of his own films that appeared on the list have not even been seen by Frémaux. There were a couple of titles on the list that have been the source of wide speculation, but the official Cannes press conference takes place on April 19 and Frémaux and his team will be screening … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Wild Bunch is reteaming with Cristian Mungiu for the 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days helmer’s first feature effort since his 2007 Palme d’Or winning drama. Along with repping sales on the new film, Wild Bunch is producing with France’s Why Not and Mungiu. Set in an Orthodox convent in Romania, the story centers on a young woman’s descent into madness, her subsequent exorcism and the police investigation it sparks. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval tells me the genre film has elements of 4 Months, but with a much more intense twist. Wild Bunch will commence pre-sales in Berlin and is eyeing a Cannes delivery date. Also on Wild Bunch’s Berlin sales slate are a series of titles likely to see play in the official selections at Cannes including West Beyrouth director Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack, a film that was previously in development at Focus. Based on the best-selling book by Yasmina Khadra, the film is about a Palestinian doctor who discovers uncomfortable truths about his wife following a suicide bombing attack. Wild Bunch has also boarded Broken, stage director Rufus Norris’ feature debut starring Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear and Bill Milner. Adapted from Daniel Clay’s novel, story follows the turmoil a young girl faces after witnessing a violent attack. Maraval says the film could be a contender Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Twisted Pictures, the company behind the Saw series and other genre films, has made an output and distribution deal with Wild Bunch. The Paris-based distribution and sales company will acquire and distribute the worldwide rights in all media for Twisted Pictures, the genre label of Mark Burg’s Evolution Entertainment. The deal will run for three years, and Twisted Pictures plans to generate up to two films each year, with an emphasis on low-budget genre fare featuring new filmmakers. It’s a major step forward for Burg since he bought out co-founder Oren Koules’ 50% stake in Evolution last June and named Mike Menchel to run the production/management company as president. Evolution, longtime manager of Charlie Sheen, was a producer of Two And A Half Men and will be a producer on Sheen’s upcoming FX series Anger Management. Read More »