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Toronto 2012: Lionsgate, Roadside Buy Historical Epic 'Emperor'

Set in post-World War II Japan, the Peter Webber-directed film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox and rising Japanese star Eriko Hatsune.

TORONTO -- Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate have snapped up U.S. rights to Peter Webber’s English-language epic Emperor, which premiered Sept. 14 at the Toronto International Film Festival to a standing ovation.

Roadside will take the lead and release the movie theatrically; Lionsgate will handle home video and other ancillary markets. The duo have been the most active player in Toronto so far and Emperor marks the fourth film they have teamed to acquire after Thanks for Sharing, Imogene and Much Ado About Nothing.  On its own, Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff's Roadside bought Sarah Polley's documentary Stories We Tell

Set in post-World War II Japan, during the American occupation, Emperor is based on the real-life story of whether to try Emperor Hirohito for war crimes.

The deal was announced on the day the film made its worldwide premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

Emperor stars Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Douglas MacArthur – the de facto ruler of Japan -- and Matthew Fox as Gen. Bonner Fellers, who led the investigation into whether to charge Hirohito. Emperor also stars rising Japanese actress Eriko Hatsune and well-known Japanese actor Toshiyuki Nishida.

The movie's storyline is interwoven with a love affair between Fellers and Aya (Hatsune), a Japanese exchange-student he met in the United States prior to the war.

Feller’s quest to find her helps him discover both his wisdom and humanity, and enables him to reach a decision that will change the course of history.

Emperor was produced by Yoko Narahashi (The Last Samurai), Gary Foster (Sleepless in Seattle, The Soloist), Eugene Nomura (Tajomaru) and Russ Krasnoff (The Soloist) and is a Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment and United Performer’s Studio Production.

Leading Japanese studio and distributor Shochiku has will distribute Emperor in Japan.

CAA repped domestic rights, while Nick Meyer and Marc Schaberg’s Sierra/Affinity handled international sales.

Japanese money did finance some of Emperor’s budget, and Webber was the first director to ever be granted access to shoot on the Imperial grounds, the main residence of the current Emperor of Japan and the Imperial family. After Hirohito, the Emperor was no longer considered a deity.