EXCLUSIVE: The Divine Miss M. is taking on the great Mae West. HBO Films has put in development Mae West, a movie about the true Hollywood original, with Bette Midler attached to star and executive produce. The project is the brainchild of William Friedkin (The Exorcist), who will direct and executive produce. Broadway heavyweight Harvey Fierstein, who recently penned the book for Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots, is writing the script. Also executive producing is Jerry Weintraub, who executive produced HBO Films’ Emmy-winning Behind The Candelabra. Mae West, based on West’s autobiography Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, chronicles West’s rise to stardom when she takes New York by storm after writing and starring in her scandalous Broadway show Sex and battles authorities over obscenity charges. Instead of taking the road of a wide-eyed Hollywood ingenue, West forged her own path, writing and starring in her own risqué plays, including her breakthrough Sex, which had her prosecuted and sentenced to 10 days in prison for “corrupting the morals of youth.” The notoriety fueled her career and didn’t stop her from tackling taboo subjects in her next plays, including 1928 hit Diamond Lil, about a racy 1890s woman, which opened the doors to Hollywood for her.
William Friedkin has arrived in Venice to receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. He’s also here for the world premiere of Warner Bros’ newly restored version of his 1977 film Sorcerer. It’s the one he’d like to be remembered for. It “came the closest to my vision of it; the result is the way I first saw it in my mind’s eye,” he said as part of a wide-ranging and animated chat with journalists ahead of his award ceremony today.
Friedkin was last on the Lido with 2011’s gritty Killer Joe. That movie was penned by Tracy Letts with whom the director also collaborated on 2006′s Bug. He said this afternoon that he hopes to make another movie with Letts and that the two have discussed “doing a contemporary Western.” When, he’s not sure, though. Opera afficianado Friedkin is currently planning a new take on Rigoletto with Placido Domingo and noted that Letts is busy penning a new version of The Grapes Of Wrath for DreamWorks.
EXCLUSIVE: When Deadline revealed in Toronto that Emmett/Furla Films had set Nicolas Cage for the action thriller I Am Wrath, we told you that William Friedkin was circling to direct the project. I’m hearing that Friedkin is pretty much committed to do the film. Friedkin, who has helmed some of the great action crime thrillers – To Live And Die In LA and The French Connection – will make this his follow-up to Killer Joe.
Following the murder of his wife, Stanley (Cage) finds that the police are unable to catch the perpetrators. He uncovers a thick plot of police corruption and realizes that he will have to find justice on his own. As he awakens to the level of degradation of the people sworn to serve and protect, we get a little Rage in the Cage as he becomes a vigilante out to destroy those who abuse their power. Paul Sloan wrote the script based on a story by Yvan Gauthier. Lionsgate will release domestically on a film that begins production in February. Emmett and Furla are producing with Cheetah Vision Films’ Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Grindstone’s Barry Brooker & Stan Wertlieb, Vallelonga Productions’ Nick Vallelonga, Richard Salvatore & David Omston.
EXCLUSIVE: The William Friedkin-directed black comedy Killer Joe will be released by LD Entertainment on July 27 with an NC-17 rating. The film received that rating in late February, and the decision was made after the distributor and filmmaker unsuccessfully went through the appeals process before deciding they didn’t want to change the ending.
An adaptation of the Tracy Letts play, Killer Joe is the first release by LD Entertainment after Mickey Liddell formed the distribution company late last year and hired veteran indie executive David Dinerstein to run it. It’s not the first time Friedkin turned in a cut of a film that drew a dreaded rating from the MPAA. While Friedkin tackled rough subject matter in films like The Exorcist and To Live And Die In L.A., he got an X-rating for the 1980 film Cruising, in which Al Pacino played a detective who goes undercover looking for a killer preying on gay men. Friedkin said he had to cut 40 minutes of that movie to get an R rating. But he won’t have to cut a frame of Killer Joe. LD Entertainment will release a trailer for the film tomorrow, and it will wear the NC-17 rating like a red badge of courage.
Who owns the rights to Sorcerer and how much money has the 1977 thriller made? That’s what William Friedkin has asked the court to find out for him. In a five-page civil complaint filed today in LA Superior Court, …
Was the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a good one for dealmaking? Even after organizers announced a 20% uptick in film deals last Friday (the festival includes foreign territories in its count), the sales kept coming. A long-expected deal with Lionsgate on the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids finally got done (in partnership with Roadside Attractions, which will actually release the film), and Music Box announced overnight it had acquired the Rachel Weisz-starrer The Deep Blue Sea. Lionsgate was hotly pursuing another film, the Midnight Madness sensation You’re Next, which of all the festival films seems to have the best chance of approaching the box office turned in by Toronto 2010’s breakout Insidious. There have been about 20 acquisitions so far and that many more could come in the next few weeks.
Still, can you call the Toronto acquisitions marketplace “solid” when no films have been bought so far by The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, or Fox Searchlight (yeah, I revealed that they bought Shame during Toronto, but it was a deal all but sealed in Venice), or for that matter FilmDistrict, Open Road or Relativity Media, each of which jumped into the distribution business to release films that can play on upwards of 2000 screens? Buyers and sellers said it was a pretty good festival at least. One filled with mostly small deals and a show of distributor discipline that is a positive sign for an indie film sector that just started pulling out of a nosedive this time last year.
UPDATE: Sellers of Friends With Kids say I jumped the gun and their auction hasn’t concluded. I believe that Lionsgate is squarely in the mix, but they tell me others are still in it too and the outcome isn’t as certain as I’d heard last night for a deal that will be for U.S. only. Will update information as it develops.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE: The deal logjam here is on the verge of clearing up. Word is rampant that Lionsgate is on the verge of tying down rights to the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids, with a deal worth upwards of $2 million for U.S. and five other territories. The ensemble comedy stars Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott as friends whose lives are altered when they start families. Cinetic and Red Granite are selling.
In another deal taking shape, Mickey Liddell is in talks to acquire rights to the William Friedkin-directed Killer Joe, the drama that made its Toronto debut Sunday. It is the first acquisition of the festival for Liddell, whose last year acquisitions included the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed Biutiful.