Toronto 2011: 10 Hot Titles Buyers Dare Not Miss
Showcasing everything from a comedy with the "Bridesmaids" glow to the return of "Blair Witch's" director, this year's buzzy pics have Americans arriving with open checkbooks.
If acquisitions executives could clone themselves, now would be the time. There are so many high-profile sale titles playing the first Friday and Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 8 to 18, they're not sure how they'll cover all of the screenings and keep their buying edge. "Everyone wants that first weekend," says one top indie agent. This year, there's an abundance of comedy (not a big surprise, considering the bad times continue), but there's also no shortage of grit. Expect another busy acquisitions market as the new medium-size distributors (Relativity, FilmDistrict, Open Road, etc.) look to fill their 2012 slates. Although there's a wealth of other films that could easily pop, including Jamie Linden's ensemble drama Ten Year and Derick Martini's Hick, here's a look at the titles buyers can't wait to see.
360 | UTA/Wild Bunch
Why it Will Sell: The film brings together City of God director Fernando Meirelles and The Queen screenwriter Peter Morgan in a loose adaptation of the Arthur Schnitzler play La Ronde. Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law and Ben Foster star in the drama, which focuses on love.
The Challenge: Films with multiple storylines can be tricky. Invariably, some plotlines are stronger than others.
Friends with Kids | Cinetic/Red Granite
Why it Will Sell: Comedies are doing huge business, and this one features breakout Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig as well as Megan Fox and Jon Hamm, the real-life partner of FWK writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt, who also stars. It takes a lighthearted look at the impact of kids on marriages.
If it has the Bridesmaids glow, expect a bidding war.
The Challenge: Westfeldt might have written two other movies (including Kissing Jessica Stein), but she's a first-time director.
The Lady | Europacorp
Why it Will Sell: The love story revolves around Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political activist who spent a decade under house arrest. Written by Rebecca Frayn, it is said to be sweeping and epic, with a potential award-winning performance by Michelle Yeoh.
The Challenge: It's a significant departure for director Luc Besson, who's known for slick action, not drama. Also, EuropaCorp has a reputation for steep asking prices.
Killer Joe | CAA/Voltage Pictures
Why it Will Sell: The star power alone -- Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church -- will draw buyers to this William Friedkin-directed thriller about a young man who puts a hit out on his mom.
The Challenge: The characters might be unlikable, especially McConaughey, who plays Killer Joe Cooper. And there's a shocking sexual scene involving Gina Gershon.
The Oranges | CAA/FilmNation
Why it Will Sell: The ensemble comedy stars Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Adam Brody, Allison Janney and Oliver Platt. It was directed by Julian Farino and produced by Likely Story (Our Idiot Brother) and Olympus Pictures.
The Challenge: Will a May-December romance between Meester's and Laurie's characters fly?
Rampart | WME/Sierra/Affinity
Why it Will Sell: There's buzz that Woody Harrelson will be an awards contender for his performance in Oren Moverman's drama, based on a story by James Ellroy. Steve Buscemi and Ben Foster also star in the pic, loosely based on the Rampart police scandal that rocked L.A. during the 1990s.
The Challenge: Have moviegoers had their fill of corrupt cops?
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen | UTA/LGF Intl.
Why it Will Sell: Lasse Hallstrom knows how to make crowd-pleasers, as does Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire). The comedy about a fisheries scientist stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The Challenge: Is it too specialized? Also, does anyone know where Yemen is?
Shame | CAA/Hanway Films
Why it Will Sell: Buyers are hearing Michael Fassbender gives an awards-worthy performance in British director Steve McQueen's film about a man whose sexual life spirals out of control after his younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves in. See-Saw Films (The King's Speech) produced it.
The Challenge: Sex and drama don't have a great history of working in the U.S.
Take This Waltz | TF1 International
Why it Will Sell: Actor-turned-director Sarah Polley's first film, Away From Her, became an awards gem. This time, she has written and directed a romantic drama starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman.
The Challenge: Will the pic, said to be based on Polley's life, be too personal?
Lovely Molly | WME
Why it Will Sell: The horror pic is playing in the Midnight Madness program, which last year turned out box-office hit Insidious. Also, it's directed and co-written by Eduardo Sanchez, who co-directed The Blair Witch Project. Another hot Midnight Madness title to watch: The CAA-repped You're Next.
The Challenge: Sanchez hasn't had a hit since Blair Witch.