Toronto Preview: 21 Hot Festival Titles for Sale
This story first appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Will the level of dealmaking at this year's Toronto Film Festival match 2012's flurry of activity? UTA's veteran indie agent Richard Klubeck is betting on it. "This is the high-water mark in terms of available [finished] films," says Klubeck. And buyers already are poring over the jam-packed schedule.
Additionally, Toronto has turned into a growing film market where sales agents sell off foreign rights to unfinished films. One of the hottest sales titles is sure to be Jon Stewart's political drama, Rosewater. Sierra/Affinity is flying Stewart in to personally pitch buyers and show footage.
Most of the action, however, will focus on finished films screening at the fest: Worldview Entertainment, Christopher Woodrow's financing and production company, will be one of the busiest sellers. It will be offering U.S. distribution rights to Devil's Knot, starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, the Nicolas Cage starrer Joe and Ti West's The Sacrament. "There was a lack of product at Cannes, so I would expect Toronto to be much more active," says Woodrow. "But it all comes down to the film."
So, mark up your screening guides: Here are the hottest titles buyers will be circling.
Bad Words (CAA)
Director: Jason Bateman
Stars: Bateman, Allison Janney
The Buzz: Buyers think the movie (Bateman's directorial debut) has real commercial potential. Bateman plays a onetime spelling bee loser who tries to vindicate himself by somehow entering a kids' spelling competition.
Can a Song Save Your Life? (CAA/UTA)
Director: John Carney
Stars: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld
The Buzz: Carney, the writer-director of Once, creates a musical romance, from Exclusive Media, about a frustrated singer (Knightley) and a washed-up producer (Ruffalo).
Devil's Knot (CAA/WME)
Director: Atom Egoyan
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth
The Buzz: Loosely based on the case of the West Memphis Three, the drama should find a home thanks to its well-known Canadian director and Witherspoon playing a grieving mother.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her (WME)
Director: Ned Benson
Stars: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy
The Buzz: One of the fest's most ambitious projects, it could prove puzzling: Benson has made two films about a troubled marriage -- one from the wife's perspective, the other from the husband's -- packaged together as one 190-minute film.
The Double (WME/Protagonist Pictures)
Director: Richard Ayoade
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska
The Buzz: Based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, this comic outing centers on a man who is driven mad when he discovers he has a doppelganger. And Eisenberg gets to go toe-to-toe with himself.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent
The Buzz: What's this? Another doppelganger tale! In this psychosexual thriller, Gyllenhaal stars in a dual role as a university teacher who tracks down a man who looks just like him.
The F Word (UTA)
Director: Michael Dowse
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver
The Buzz: The movie about a young man and woman trying to just be friends could pop with younger moviegoers if it isn't too talky, according to the advance word.
Fading Gigolo (ICM)
Director: John Turturro
Stars: Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
The Buzz: Allen plays a pimp who guides Turturro's middle-aged hustler. It marks the first time Allen has acted in another director's film in more than a decade.
Felony (CAA/The Solution Group)
Director: Matthew Saville
Stars: Tom Wilkinson, Joel Edgerton, Jai Courtney, Melissa George
The Buzz: The Australian drama revolves around three detectives who become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident leaves a child in critical condition.
Hateship Loveship (UTA/Cassian Elwes)
Director: Liza Johnson
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld
The Buzz: This drama about a girl who tries to fix up her father with her nanny is a potential breakout, though Wiig's most recent indie film, Girl Most Likely, fared poorly.
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple
The Buzz: Radcliffe is a hot property, but buyers aren't sure what to make of this thriller about a young man, accused of killing his girlfriend, who sprouts horns.
Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan
The Buzz: A gritty Southern Gothic drama about an ex-con who befriends a troubled teen, it got high marks in Venice.
Life of Crime (WME/CAA)
Director: Daniel Schechter
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Mos Def, Will Forte
The Buzz: There's keen interest in the crime comedy because of the cast and the fact that it's based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, who died Aug. 20.
The Love Punch (WME)
Director: Joel Hopkins
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Emma Thompson
The Buzz: Distributors are viewing this caper about a divorced couple who reunite for a diamond heist as a possible adult box-office draw.
Palo Alto (Barry Hirsch)
Director: Gia Coppola
Stars: James Franco, Emma Roberts
The Buzz: A study of California teens based on Franco's stories, the film, applauded in Telluride, should sell on its talent alone. Coppola is the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola and daughter of the late Gian-Carlo Coppola.
The Railway Man (CAA)
Director: John Teplitzky
Stars: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman
The Buzz: The film, slotted high up on every buyer's A-list, tells the true story of a haunted World War II British Army officer whose wife decides he must meet his former Japanese POW tormentor.
Sunshine on Leith (Focus International)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Stars: Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks
The Buzz: A feel-good romp based on Stephen Greenhorn's critically acclaimed play with a heavy dose of music from 1980s Scottish band The Proclaimers.
Third Person (Paradigm/CAA)
Director: Paul Haggis
Stars: Liam Neeson, Kim Basinger, Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis, Maria Bello
The Buzz: Three intersecting stories about couples in Rome, Paris and New York City mark Haggis' return to the same multistory technique that earned his Crash three Oscars.
Director: John Curran
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
The Buzz: Produced by Iain Canning and Emile Sherman -- the Oscar-winning duo behind The King's Speech -- this adventure starring Wasikowska in a trek across Australia got raves in Venice.
Words and Pictures (CAA)
Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche
The Buzz: A comic drama that pits Owen's English teacher against Binoche's art teacher.
You Are Here (CAA/ICM)
Director: Matthew Weiner
Stars: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis
The Buzz: The comedy about two childhood friends who return to their hometown when one of them inherits a fortune marks the first feature directed by Mad Men creator Weiner.