Cannes Hot List: 18 Market Titles Set to Heat Up the Fest

9:45 PM 5/7/2018

by Scott Roxborough and Tatiana Siegel

It's quality over quantity as international buyers look for stars (Anne Hathaway, Mark Wahlberg), spectacle (the $100 million 'Midway') and surefire material in the market (from Joan Didion to Bruce Springsteen).

From left: Collins ('Titan'), Firth ('The Secret Garden'), Watts ('Burning Season'), Wahlberg ('Mile 22'), Hathaway ('The Last Thing He Wanted') and del Toro ('Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark').
From left: Collins ('Titan'), Firth ('The Secret Garden'), Watts ('Burning Season'), Wahlberg ('Mile 22'), Hathaway ('The Last Thing He Wanted') and del Toro ('Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark').
Kimberly White/Getty Images; Vera Anderson/WireImage; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images; James Devaney/FilmMagic; Steve Granitz/WireImage

New films, new players and, most important, a new sense of optimism promise to enliven this year’s Cannes market. After years of disruption and decline on the independent scene as fewer indie films scored at the box office and Netflix tore up traditional distribution models, executives point to strong sales in Berlin in February as a hopeful sign. But while the Cannes market of old was a volume business of cookie-cutter features (the male-skewing actioner, the teen-chasing horror film), in today’s indie world, sellers are focusing on fewer titles — ones that can stand out in the crowd.

“International distributors are in need of product, but they’re also incredibly cautious because they’re in need of the right product,” says Alex Walton, of international sales group Bloom, whose Cannes slate includes the action spoof Kung Fury, with Michael Fassbender, and The Last Thing He Wanted, starring Anne Hathaway, from Mudbound director Dee Rees. “A film has to be very good or great to succeed these days,” adds FilmNation’s Glen Basner. “There has to be a reason why people should see this film in theaters and not on their computers.” 

  • '355'

    Sales: FilmNation, CAA

    Director: Simon Kinberg

    Talent: Lupita Nyong’o, Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing

    A female ensemble take on the Jason Bourne/James Bond spy thriller with Chastain, Cruz, Cotillard, Bingbing and Nyong'o as spies from various international agencies who come together to stop a global threat.

  • 'The American'

    Sales: Sierra/Affinity, Endeavor Content

    Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

    Talent: Jake Gyllenhaal

    Gyllenhaal will produce and star as composer Leonard Bernstein in this biopic from Beasts of No Nation director Fukunaga.

  • 'Blinded by the Light'

    Sales: Cornerstone Films

    Director: Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham)

    Talent: Hayley Atwell, Viveik Kalra

    Representing the kind of quirky-yet-familiar material buyers might take a chance on (director Chadha’s name helps), this dramedy tells the story of a British Muslim boy (Kalra) growing up in a London suburb in the 1980s whose life is transformed by the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. It’s based on the memoirs of British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.

  • 'Burning Season'

    Sales: HanWay Films

    Director: Claire McCarthy (Ophelia)

    Talent: Naomi Watts, Sophia Lillis

    Watts plays primatologist June Engle, who returns to a drought-stricken region of Madagascar in search of endangered species, dragging along her teenage daughter (Lillis). With the devastating forest fires of the burning season rapidly approaching, June risks everything for her obsession, driving a stake between mother and daughter.

  • 'Dali Land'

    Sales: Bankside Films

    Director: Mary Harron

    Talent: Ben Kingsley, Lesley Manville, Tim Roth, Frank Dillane

    Kingsley will star as Salvador Dali with Manville as Gala, the surrealist painter's domineering wife and muse.

  • 'The Forgiven'

    Sales: IMR International, CAA

    Director: John Michael McDonagh

    Talent: Ralph Fiennes, Rebecca Hall, Mark Strong

    Fiennes and Hall star as an English couple whose lives are disrupted by a random accident en route to a decadent weekend-long party in the Moroccan desert.

  • 'The Last Thing He Wanted'

    Sales: Bloom

    Director: Dee Rees (Mudbound)

    Talent: Anne Hathaway

    In this adaptation of the Joan Didion novel, Hathaway plays a successful journalist who abandons her coverage of the 1994 presidential campaign to fulfill her father’s last wish that she take over his business — as an international arms dealer.

  • 'Midway'

    Sales: AGC Studios

    Director: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day)

    Talent: Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore

    No stranger to big-screen spectacle, director Emmerich is getting his Dunkirk on with this $100 million epic following the soldiers and aviators who helped to turn the tide in the Pacific theater of World War II. Lionsgate has U.S. rights.

  • 'Mile 22'

    Sales: STX International

    Director: Peter Berg (Patriots Day, Lone Survivor)

    Talent: Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey

    The Berg-Wahlberg tag team returns with another high-octane actioner, this time with Wahlberg as an elite American intelligence officer trying to smuggle a police officer with sensitive information out of the country.

  • 'The Outpost'

    Sales: Millennium

    Director: Rod Lurie

    Talent: Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom

    Based on a best-selling book from CNN’s Jake Tapper, the action film chronicles the true story of the 53 U.S. soldiers who battled a force of some 400 enemy insurgents in northeastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

  • 'Rambo V'

    Sales: Millennium

    Director: TBA

    Talent: Sylvester Stallone

    Embattled Vietnam vet John Rambo is back for more, this time in a Taken-esque plot in which Rambo's daughter is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel.

  • 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark'

    Sales: Sierra/Affinity

    Director: Andre Ovredal (Trollhunter)

    Talent: Guillermo del Toro, co-writer/producer

    For this adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’s best-selling horror compilation series, which draws heavily from folklore and urban legends, del Toro’s name in the credits will be a strong draw after the global success of Oscar winner The Shape of Water. CBS Films is distributing in the U.S., with eOne taking Canada, the U.K., Germany, Spain and Australia.

  • 'The Secret Garden'

    Sales: StudioCanal

    Director: Marc Munden (TV’s Utopia)

    Talent: Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Dixie Egerickx

    This new adaptation of the British children’s classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett stars newcomer Egerickx as the unloved Mary Lennox, sent to England after the death of her parents in India to live with her uncle Archibald (Firth) on his isolated country estate.

  • 'The Sound of Philadelphia'

    Sales: Protagonist Pictures, Endeavor Content

    Director: Jeremie Guez

    Talent: Matthias Schoenaerts, Garrett Hedlund, Scoot McNairy.

    A mob tale from the producers of Carol, based on the Pete Dexter novel Brotherly Love.

  • 'The Sunlit Night'

    Sales: Mister Smith Entertainment

    Director: David Wnendt

    Talent: Jenny Slate, Alex Sharp, Gillian Anderson, Zach Galifianakis

    A dark romance set between New York City and the arctic circle, with Slate as an American painter who forms an unlikely pair with émigré Yasha (Sharp), who sets off to bury his farther in the land of the Vikings.

  • 'Titan'

    Sales: XYZ (international), UTA/CAA (domestic)

    Director: Austin Bunn (Kill Your Darlings)

    Talent: Lily Collins

    Collins plays a directionless young woman who decides to visit the redwood forest where her sister died several years before and winds up stranded at the top of a massive tree.

  • 'Toff Guys'

    Sales: Rocket Science, CAA

    Director: Guy Ritchie

    Talent: TBA

    Following studio outings with the Sherlock Holmes franchise and King Arthur, Ritchie returns to his Brit indie roots with this high-octane tale of an upper-class English drug lord looking to sell off his empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires.

  • 'Vivarium'

    Sales: XYZ Films, CAA

    Director: Lorcan Finnegan

    Talent: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots

    Eisenberg and Poots play a couple who find the perfect starter home only to become trapped in a maze of identical homes in this Irish sci-fi thriller.

    A version of this story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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