Some major restructuring is taking place at Focus Features. Universal Pictures announced today that Focus will be absorbing FilmDistrict, with FilmDistrict founder and CEO Peter Schlessel taking over as Focus Features CEO from James Schamus. The goal is to broaden the types of films that Focus distributes and increase the number of films released to as many as ten films per year. All FilmDistrict pics released after January 2014 will be absorbed into the new Focus Features.
Focus Features will have only released five films this year—Admission, The Place Beyond the Pines, The World’s End, and Closed Circuit—and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of films the new iteration of the studio will be taking under its wing. FilmDistrict had long focused on specialty genre films like Evil Dead and Drive, so hopefully the melding of the two studios will make for a fruitful marriage that doesn’t sideline the smaller pics for which Focus is known. Hit the jump to read the full press release.
Following yesterday’s big acquisition of the crowd-favorite Can a Song Save Your Life? at the Toronto International Film Festival, we’ve got a few other acquisition stories to attend to:
- After an intense bidding war, Focus Features has acquired worldwide rights to Jason Bateman’s directorial debut Bad Words for a whopping $7 million. The spelling bee comedy earned strong marks after its TIFF debut and is slated for a 2014 release. Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, and Ben Falcone (Bridesmaids) also star.
- Director/star John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo has been picked up for worldwide rights by Millennium for $3 million, per Deadline. Turturro stars as a man who aspires to be a professional Don Juan, and ends up being pimped out by his friend played by Woody Allen.
- The relatively new company A24 has picked up the North American rights to director Steven Knight’s drama Locke, starring Tom Hardy as a man struggling to save his personal and professional life over the course of a car ride.
Hit the jump to read the press releases regarding Bad Words and Locke, and click here to catch up on all of our TIFF 2013 coverage thus far.
Focus Features is hoping to create a little breathing room amidst the awards season madness for director Jean-Marc Vallee’s 1980s-set AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club, which just might put Matthew McConaughey in the running for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. The film has been moved up over a month from its original release date of December 6th to November 1st, where it will receive a limited release in New York and Los Angeles before expanding nationwide in the following weeks. Based on a true story, the film stars McConaughey as a Texas electrician who, after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, began to smuggle alternative and illegal treatments into the US and into the hands of other patients. Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto also star.
This new release date puts a little distance between Dallas Buyers Club and the crowded end of November/beginning of December field, which is chock-full of awards contenders. Before opening in theaters, though, Dallas Buyers Club will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in just over a week’s time.
After first being first put into motion last year, a director has finally been set for Universal and Focus Features’ Fifty Shades of Grey movie. In case you live in a hole and have somehow managed to remain blissfully unaware, the film is based on an erotic trilogy of books by author E.L. James that tracks the relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. After rumors swirled about the likes of Gus Van Sant and Joe Wright being interested in taking the helm, a bit of a surprise choice has been settled on to direct the Fifty Shades of Grey movie: Nowhere Boy helmer Sam Taylor-Johnson. Hit the jump for more.
Release dates for a couple of highly anticipated indies have been set. Per Exhibitor Relations, Sony Pictures Classics will release director John Krokidas’ excellent drama Kill Your Darlings in limited release on October 18th, with a nationwide expansion to follow. The film focuses on the origins of the Beat movement and follows the friendships of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). I caught the pic at Sundance and it was one of my favorites of the festival; Radcliffe and DeHaan both give powerhouse performances and Krokidas announces himself as a serious talent to watch. Read Matt’s review here and check out Steve’s interview with Krokidas here.
Additionally, Jean-Marc Vallee’s drama The Dallas Buyers Club has been given an awards season release date of December 6th by Focus Features. Based on a true story, Matthew McConaughey plays a man who was given six months to live after a 1986 AIDS diagnosis, but instead survived six years on the medication he smuggled into the U.S. that he shared with other patients. McConaughey will likely be gunning for an Oscar run, especially given that he looks like this in the film.
Good news, everyone! Focus Features has moved the release of writer/director Edgar Wright’s next film, The World’s End, up nearly two months from October 25th to the nice summer date of August 23rd. This is excellent news, as anticipation is high for the third and final entry in the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” from Wright, co-writer/star Simon Pegg, and star Nick Frost that began with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The story for The World’s End centers on five childhood friends (played by Pegg, Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, and Martin Freeman) going through an epic pub crawl in order to reach the fabled pub, “The World’s End”. But as they make their way to the pub, they discover that the fate of humankind is on the line.
The film will presumably still be opening in the U.K. on August 14th, but U.S. audiences now don’t have to wait two full months to see it. The move to summer is a vote of confidence from Focus Features, and on the new release date the pic will face off against the YA adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and the critically hailed horror film You’re Next.
It was nigh on three years ago that one mister James Franco, a largely unknown film student at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, presented his behind-the-scenes documentary of Saturday Night Live to the delight of audiences at SXSW. Entitled Saturday Night the film charmed audiences and critics alike once again at Tribeca, (link 1) was then picked up by Adam Yauch’s Oscilloscope, and then… silence.
Until today that is. Hit the jump for news straight from the Franco’s mouth.
More acquisition news from the Toronto International Film Festival:
- Focus Features picked up the U.S. rights to The Place Beyond the Pines, the drama written and directed Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), led by Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Eva Mendes.
- Anchor Bay will distribute the Billy Bob Thorton‘s Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Thorton co-stars with Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon, Katherine LaNasa, Ray Stevenson and Robert Patrick.
- Arclight Films acquired Storm Surfers 3D, the Australian documentary (narrated by Toni Collette) about two-time world surfing champion Tom Carroll and big wave pioneer Ross Clarke-Jones.
Hit the jump for details on each project.
Though it’s tough to argue for the artistic merit of something that began as Twilight fan fiction written on the internet, we’re starting to get an idea of what the feature film adaptation of E.L. James’ “mommy porn” trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey might look like. Producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti have been tapped by Universal and Focus Features to produce the big screen iteration of Fifty Shades of Grey. Somewhat surprisingly the studios did not choose some tween pandering or hyper-commercial duo, as De Luca and Brunetti both produced David Fincher’s The Social Network, with De Luca also producing one of last year’s best films, Moneyball. Focus Features CEO Donna Langley had this to say about the hiring:
“At its core, Fifty Shades of Grey is a complex love story, requiring a delicate and sophisticated hand to bring it to the big screen. Mike and Dana’s credits more than exemplify what we need in creative partners and we’re glad to have them as part of our team.”
Hit the jump for more.
George Clooney is adding another directorial project to his slate. Focus Features has optioned David Grann’s New Yorker article The Yankee Comandante with Clooney attached to direct. The project is, unsurprisingly, political in nature and tells the true story of an American named William Alexander Morgan who helped Fidel Castro and the Cuban rebels overthrow Fulgencio Batista. Morgan became only the second foreigner to land the highly regarded title of Comandante, and throughout the struggle to overthrow Batista he maintained his anti-communist views and remained convinced that Castro was not a communist. Hit the jump for more.
Focus Features announced today that production has commenced on the drama Promised Land. The screenplay was written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, based on a story by Dave Eggers, and the project was poised to be Damon’s directorial debut before scheduling issues forced him to vacate the director’s chair. Damon’s Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant swooped in and swiftly took over directing duties, and now filming has begun. Focus President Jeb Brody draws some very flattering comparisons when describing the project:
“Matt and John’s script is rich in Frank Capra-esque qualities, blending humor and heart while exploring the power of community in this day and age. An actor’s director like Gus will bring forth all the emotions in the story, which is a true passion project for everyone.”
In addition to Damon and Krasinski, the cast also includes Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, Rosemarie DeWitt, Scoot McNairy, and Titus Welliver. Hit the jump to read the press release, which includes a plot synopsis.
Focus Features has released new images for Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom (premiering at Cannes, and then opening in limited release on May 25th), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley (opening June 22nd), and the stop-motion animated film Paranorman (opening in 3D on August 17th). Note that the image from Moonrise Kingdom is probably promotional and not from the movie.
Hit the jump to check out the images, and click on the corresponding links to learn more about each movie. You can also find synopses after the jump.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features have come out the victors in the battle for the “mommy porn” series Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not uncommon for studios to vie for the film rights to certain hot properties, but Fifty Shades of Grey is different for a few reasons. 1. The three-part romance series is heavy on the S&M and erotica, 2. The books rose to prominence as ebooks, and 3. Author E.L. James developed the story for Fifty Shades of Grey from her own Fan fiction work inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books. What’s that last part, you say? Oh yes, we now live in a world where Twilight fan fiction is turned into bestselling fiction, which itself is turned into a hot feature film property. Hit the jump for more.
Gary Oldman wrapped up his 3-day, 7-film retrospective at New York’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema with a fun, extended Q&A after Wednesday night’s screening of his Oscar-nominated performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
The first time Academy Award nominee fielded questions from a theater filled with hundreds of his fans with nearly an hour. Oldman also hung around for autographs, pictures and additional questions. Hit the jump for stories from the set of The Dark Knight Rises, his paralyzing doubt on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and what he thought while watching Heath Ledger as The Joker.
Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall are set to team up for an untitled international suspense thriller. Focus Features and Working Title films are set to produce the flick, with Boy A helmer John Crowley onboard to direct. The film centers on two ex-lovers who “find their loyalties tested and their lives at risk when they are joined together on the defense team in a terrorism trial.” The film is described as a nail-biting thriller that also plays as an emotional roller coaster. Bana and Hall are stellar performers and the script comes from Eastern Promises scribe Steven Knight, so this one has the ingredients for quite the flick. Production is set to begin in April.
Bana has a number of projects on the horizon, including the thriller Blackbird, the heist pic Brilliant, and he’s next set to play Elvis Presley in Elvis & Nixon. As for Hall, she’ll next be seen in Stephen Frears’ gambling dramedy Lay the Favorite. Hit the jump for the press release.