Toronto: How Harvey Weinstein's 90-Minute Pitch Won 'Can a Song Save Your Life?'
This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Harvey Weinstein made his move almost immediately after the credits rolled on Can a Song Save Your Life? Hours later, the musical drama had scored one of the splashiest sales at this year's Toronto Film Festival.
But it wasn't easy. Making its world premiere Sept. 7 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Can a Song played so strongly that a handful of other pursuers pounced. So The Weinstein Co. chief arrived at the film's afterparty at Patria restaurant before director John Carney (Once) and star Keira Knightley. Like a lion stalking his prey, Weinstein was patient. When Carney arrived and sat down in his booth, Weinstein swooped in, starting a conversation that lasted 90 minutes, according to multiple sources.
Other studio execs were on hand to court Carney as well, but Weinstein shut them out. For example, Lionsgate/Summit troika Rob Friedman, Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig walked up to the booth and saw Weinstein chatting with Carney. They waited patiently. And waited. Finally, Friedman had had enough.
"Hey, are you getting married, or are you going to let someone else have a turn?" he asked Weinstein in front of the assembled crowd. Weinstein continued talking undeterred. "He wasn't going to let anyone else get John," one witness tells THR.
Eventually, Carney walked over to the Lionsgate/Summit crowd. But it was too late. The movie was Weinstein's, at a price tag of $7 million for U.S. rights and a hefty $20 million prints and advertising commitment. TWC plans to release the film, which features original music, next year.
By 2 a.m., Weinstein was celebrating at the Thompson hotel rooftop party thrown by sales and production outfit Worldview while TWC attorneys hammered out the deal points.
The Song sale was one of several to make waves during the first weekend of the festival. Worldwide rights to Jason Bateman's raunchy directorial debut Bad Words were scooped up Sept. 7 by Focus Features for about $7 million. And just hours before, upstart distributor A24 Films (owned by THR parent Guggenheim Partners) paid $1.25 million for U.S. rights to the Tom Hardy starrer Locke, which marked the first major deal on the ground at the festival.
On Sept. 8, John Turturro's Fading Gigolo, featuring Woody Allen, sold to Millennium for less than $3 million for U.S. rights. IFC Midnight later picked up U.S. rights to The Station, an Austrian creature feature that made its debut at Midnight Madness. At press time, CBS Films was closing a deal for U.S. rights to Daniel Radcliffe's The F Word for close to $3 million, while A24 was looking at Scarlett Johansson's Under the Skin.
But just as Weinstein dominated the Can a Song afterparty, his figure overshadowed the Toronto dealmaking scene. Several sellers said if Harvey wants a movie, chances are he'll get it.