Fox Searchlight snares Ratliff's 'Joshua'

4:00 AM PST 01/23/2007 by Gregg Goldstein, Nicole Sperling

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PARK CITY, Utah - Fox Searchlight confirmed late Sunday night that they have purchased virtually all worldwide rights minus Canada to "Joshua," a psychological thriller from co-writer and director George Ratliff, the documentary filmmaker behind Hell House.

The film, which debuted Saturday night at the Racquet Club Theatre, tells the tale of a disturbed and disturbing child who slowly turns the life of his family upside down. Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga and young newcomer Jacob Kogan, "Joshua" received interest from multiple parties but it was Searchlight who came through in the end.

"George Ratliff and David Gilbert have created an unbelievably tense and frightful tale," said Searchlight president Rice, who plans a summer release.

The studio purchased the film, reminiscent of "The Omen" and "The Bad Seed" combined with the urban dread of "Rosemary's Baby," for $3.7 million. Tony Safford, senior vp of acquisitions & production at Twentieth Century Fox and executive vp, business affairs Stephen Plum negotiated on behalf of Searchlight while UTA and attorney Andrew Hurwitz represented the filmmakers.

Ratliff, who at the time of the project's conception, was about to have a child, had no interest in the film's theme but it was his co-writer David Gilbert, who encouraged him to take the plunge. Speaking at the film's premiere, Ratliff praised Kogan's work. "Jacob turned into this mean method actor." Kogan, who made his debut in Joshua, found the acting, "a little too easy. All I really had to do was look and be cold."

The audience gasped upon learning that the film was shot in 25 days, partially a reflection of the chilling cinematography by Benoit Debie ("Irreversible").


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