TIFF's Hot List: 10 Films in Demand
Michael Moore, Shia LaBeouf and a Jason Bateman comedy could generate bidding wars as rich new buyers (Amazon, Broad Green) make up for Relativity's implosion. Plus, all eyes now turn to Harvey Weinstein's next move.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
With distributors like Relativity and Radius out of the mix and others such as Alchemy, Bleecker Street and The Orchard staking their ground, the film acquisition landscape is shifting against the backdrop of the Toronto Film Festival. Cash-flush players Netflix, Amazon and Broad Green are expected to flex their muscles, while an increasingly quiet Harvey Weinstein remains the biggest question mark among market regulars. (Will he remain on the sidelines like he did at last year's fest or pull off a big buy to bolster the company's image after losing key executives?)
On paper, this year's slate of finished films available for U.S. distribution lacks the same level of buzz as last year's, when Chris Rock's Top Five sparked a feeding frenzy. "I don't see any movie that's like, 'God, I wish I could get that one now,' " says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard. In fact, some of this year's splashiest deals could come via presales as opposed to finished films, with such projects as the John Madden-directed, Jessica Chastain starrer Ms. Sloane (at the package stage) and the Meryl Streep-Hugh Grant pairing Florence Foster Jenkins (in postproduction) being shopped.
"There's been a lot of preselling off of scripts and packages at festivals this past year," says WME's Liesl Copland. "I think we could definitely see a good amount of activity in that space." Still, the Toronto market inhabits a space distinct from Cannes, Berlin and AFM — where presales are front and center — and insiders do expect some finished films to sell. The following are among the most sought-after.
Directors: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman
Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, David Thewlis
Buzz: Kaufman returns to the director's chair seven years after Synecdoche, New York to make his first foray into stop-motion, teaming with Johnson on a tale of a motivational speaker who can't find any passion in his life until he meets one very special woman.
Colonia (UTA/Beta Cinema)
Director: Florian Gallenberger
Stars: Emma Watson, Daniel Bruhl
Buzz: The taut thriller, set during the 1973 coup in Chile, sees Bruhl's character abducted and taken to a remote encampment with no hope of escape. His girlfriend's (Watson) only hope is to enter the compound pretending to be a loyal follower.
Desierto (UTA/IM Global)
Director: Jonas Cuaron
Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Buzz: The timely cat-and-mouse thriller, helmed by Alfonso Cuaron's son (and Gravity co-writer), follows a group of Mexicans attempting to illegally enter the U.S. who are stalked by a murderous vigilante.
Equals (UTA/Mr Smith)
Director: Drake Doremus
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce
Buzz: Like Crazy director Doremus' most ambitious film yet explores a futuristic world where human emotions have been eliminated, except in a few hidden "diseased" citizens, two of whom discover each other.
The Family Fang (CAA/QED)
Director: Jason Bateman
Stars: Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken
Buzz: Bateman's directorial debut, Bad Words (Toronto 2013), fell flat at the box office ($7.8 million), but his next effort is said to have an inspired performance by Walken as a public interventionist whose children (Bateman and Kidman) visit.
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett
Buzz: The most unique offering in the Midnight Madness section was shot completely from a first-person perspective, placing the audience inside a cyborg super-soldier fighting his way across Russia.
High Rise (HanWay)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Star: Tom Hiddleston
Buzz: Buyers are intrigued by head- trippy director Wheatley's (Kill List) latest, a futuristic look at a London apartment tower that becomes a battlefield in a literal class war. Distributors are hoping it has an Ex-Machina vibe.
Maggie's Plan (CAA/Cinetic/Protagonist)
Director: Rebecca Miller
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore
Buzz: With a stellar cast, Miller (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) could see her latest plugged into an awards-season run a la Moore's Still Alice. The drama centers on a young woman (Gerwig) whose determination to have a child thrusts her into a love triangle with an unhappy academic (Hawke) and his eccentric wife (Moore).
Man Down (CAA/WME/The Solution Entertainment Group)
Director: Dito Montiel
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Gary Oldman, Jai Courtney
Buzz:Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) offers another dystopian narrative in which a former Marine (LaBeouf) devastated by war searches for his wife (Mara) and son in a postapocalyptic America.
Where to Invade Next (WME)
Director: Michael Moore
Buzz: It's been six years since Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, and by all accounts, Where to Invade Next is a return to his Fahrenheit 9/11 form. Look for opening-night fireworks.