'Devil' has day at ThinkFilm

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NEW YORK -- In the first acquisition from its new sister company Capitol Films, ThinkFilm has picked up all North American rights to Sidney Lumet's crime thriller "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei.

Hoffman, an Oscar-winner for "Capote," will play a drug addict who hatches a plan with his brother (Hawke) to rob a jewelry store owned by their parents (Finney, Rosemary Harris). As the web of betrayal extends to the wife of Hoffman's character (Tomei) and an accomplice, things begin to go terribly wrong.

The 83-year-old Lumet describes the film, which jumps back and forth in time, as a Rubik's Cube of unfolding plot twists and emotional relationships between the characters. Several indie distributors were circling the $10 million-plus feature, in part because of its Oscar winners (Lumet, Hoffman, Tomei) and nominees (Finney, Hawke, Harris), but the director said he felt most comfortable with ThinkFilm because of U.S. theatrical head Mark Urman.

"I inconveniently believe in letting an audience find a movie," Lumet said. "When you say that to most studios, they say 'Good luck, Charlie. See you around,' but Mark understands the importance of starting small and building it smartly." The film opens Oct. 17 in Los Angeles, New York and possibly Toronto before expanding to the top 40 urban markets over the next three weeks.

David Bergstein and Ron Tudor's film financing and production company Capco Group purchased ThinkFilm for about $25 million in October, with a plan to distribute lower-budget titles through the North American distributor. "Devil" was in postproduction before the sale and up for grabs for potential buyers.

"With each film we wonder, 'Is this in the best interest of the larger family?' " Urman said. "We waged a campaign to get this because it's a malevolent toy of a film with a true nest of vipers, very dark and nasty in cynical way, and fun in its structure. It's also connected in spirit to a lot of things Sidney has done, from 'Dog Day Afternoon' to 'The Anderson Tapes.' "

An unofficial trailer with Tomei's nude scenes used to sell the film at May's Festival de Cannes was leaked online by a French Web site this month, but Capitol Films managing director Peter Naish said the official one will be suitable for general audiences.

Some have speculated that this will be Lumet's final film, but the director has no such plans. He's now in the process of securing financing for the prison-break feature "Getting Out."

"I may be forced into retirement, I don't know," Lumet said. "But my motto is, 'Let's do it until they tie you down.' "
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