What's news: In Toronto, Molly's Game, Death of Stalin and I,Tonya impress critics while deals go to Chappaquiddick and Replicas. Plus: A shake-up at Paramount, Spike Lee and Jordan Peele are planning a true-life KKK thriller and Matt Damon heads to Netflix. — Matthew Belloni and Erik Hayden
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If nothing else, it was a busy deals day at the Toronto film festival for Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, Tatiana Siegel writes:
Early on Friday the company picked up rights to the Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller Replicas. The film takes place after a car accident kills the loving family of a daring neuroscientist — who will stop at nothing to bring them back.
Replicas is not in the TIFF lineup, so instead a deal was made after a private screening that was held here in Toronto. Entertainment Studios picked up the thriller for $4M. CAA negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers. Lotus is handling international sales on the film.
Later in the day, Entertainment Studios landed Jason Clarke starrer Chappaquiddick, also for $4M. Even more impressive, the company is committing to a massive $16M prints-and-advertising campaign to accompany the film’s release.
Entertainment Studios made an aggressive bid on the film weeks before TIFF after being shown a print in Los Angeles, and the early interest appears to have paid off. The film is making its world premiere Sunday at TIFF.
Elsewhere at the festival...
^Molly's Game premieres. Taking a moment at an afterparty was producer Matt Jackson, star Jessica Chastain, producer Amy Pascal, author Molly Bloom, producer Mark Gordon, director Aaron Sorkin and star Idris Elba.
What the critics are saying. Todd McCarthy writes: "In his overdue directorial debut, Sorkin both entertains and makes you lean in to absorb every detail of this wild tale, which boasts a stellar cast to help tell it. Audiences of some sophistication, and especially denizens of Hollywood and upscale New York, will eat it up; the boonies not at all." Full review.
+ Screen Daily: "Ferociously eloquent, densely packed with ideas, immensely entertaining." Variety: "a dense, dynamic, compulsively entertaining affair." The Guardian: "brought half-heartedly to life by a miscast Jessica Chastain."
^I, Tonya premieres. Margot Robbie greets fans carrying Wolf of Wall Street and Suicide Squad posters at the debut for her figure skating rivalry film on Friday.
What the critics are saying. John DeFore writes: "Margot Robbie takes obvious pleasure in playing figure skater Tonya Harding, from her vulnerable teens to her present-tense, take-it-or-leave-it retirement. The lively and lurid film has solid commercial legs under it and marks a rebound for [Craig] Gillespie." Full review.
+ TheWrap: "Robbie brings a brand of vinegar we haven’t seen in her previous work, and it illuminates a long-forgotten trainwreck." Variety: "Margot Robbie gives a delectable performance as Tonya Harding in a biopic that saves her from infamy by being cheeky but real."
^Death of Stalin premieres. The film's Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend, Steve Buscemi, Andrea Riseborough and director Armando Iannucci at a cocktail reception on Friday.
What the critics are saying. John DeFore writes: "One of the funniest and most distinctive political satirists of our time has finally returned to the big screen, with a lacerating look at the regime of an overweight bully who demands unthinking loyalty and expects reality to conform to his every dictum. We're speaking, of course, about Joseph Stalin: Having skewered 21st-century White Houses in Veep and In the Loop, Armando Iannucci got out before reality made his invented stupidities and outrages unremarkable." Full review.
+ The Guardian: "superbly cast, and acted with icy and ruthless force by an A-list lineup. There are no weak links." Screen Daily: "a sharp-edged, resonant satire of power grabbing." Indiewire: "The one-liners come hard and fast in this winning satire."
Deals and castings...
► Extra! Saturday's fest newspaper has arrived. For Toronto industry, there's 36 pages of deals, news, exec interviews and reviews along with a screening guide and an exclusive first look at Brenton Thwaites in Office Uprising. Download here.
► What everyone's talking about. Spike Lee is teaming with Get Out filmmaker Jordan Peele for Black Klansman, the true story of an African-American police officer who infiltrated the KKK. John David Washington, Denzel Washington's son, is in negotiations to star in the dramatic crime thriller that is gearing up to shoot this fall with Focus Features distributing. Full story.
► Super Size Me sequel landing at YouTube Red. Sources say the tech giant is in exclusive talks to acquire Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! for $3.5M. The film bowed in Toronto on Friday.
► Saban Films nabs three Millennium titles. The indie distributor is planning a theatrical release for Antonio Banderas starrers Acts of Vengeance and Bullet Head, as well as a remake of George Romero's Day of the Dead.
► Berlin, I Love You enlists more stars. Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jim Sturgess are joining the Cities of Love anthology series launched by Emmanuel Benbihy that already has tackled tales of romance in Paris and New York.
► Taran Killam joins Kevin Hart in Night School. The former SNL player has been cast in the Universal comedy that is being produced by Will Packer. An end of September start of production in Atlanta is being planned.
► U.S. box office: It bigger than expected. New Line's Stephen King adaptation is scaring up a whopping $40M or more for the day, including its record-shattering $13.5M in Thursday night previews. That puts It on track to flirt with a three-day take of $80M-85M.
► China box office: Spider-Man soars. Homecoming finally sprung into China on Friday, chalking up a healthy $23M on opening day, putting the reboot on track for $60M-plus opening weekend. The tentpole accounted for approximately 52 percent of all showings for the day.
► Paramount's motion picture group president out. Sources close to the situation say Marc Evans is stepping down at Paramount Pictures, where he’s served as president of the motion picture group since 2015, when he succeeded Adam Goodman in that post.
► Lionsgate re-ups film group chief. Patrick Wachsberger has renewed his long-term agreement with the studio and will be overseeing domestic and international feature film acquisition, production and distribution at the studio.
► Ed Arentz launches new indie distributor. The veteran art house distributor announced Friday a new New York-based distribution label, Greenwich Entertainment, in partnership with an investment fund run by Edmondo Schwartz. Details.
Lady Gaga says she'll "take a rest" from music. The pop icon, appearing at a Toronto presser for her Netflix film, Gaga 5'2," said she's not saying how long the break will be: "It doesn't mean I don't have some things up my sleeve." Story I Review.
Matt Damon is headed to Netflix. A survival comedy series exec-produced by the Oscar winner has landed a series order at the streaming giant, Kate Stanhope writes:
The unscripted series, titled The Green Beret’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse, is described an anthology series that combines humor and usable survival skills. Each episode chronicles its own contained apocalypse that the show's hero somehow manages to survive.
The comedy hails from two military veterans, Shawn Vance, a former U.S. Special Forces Green Beret, and Daril Fanin, an ex-combat medic in the U.S. army. The duo will exec-produce and star in the comedy, which is set for an eight-episode first season.
The pair will exec-produce with Damon and Jennifer Todd through their Pearl Street Films, as well as Film 45's Peter Berg, Matt Goldberg and Brandon Carroll. Full story.
Elsewhere in TV...
^Netflix's American Vandal, reviewed. Daniel Fienberg writes: "satire of the true crime documentary genre proves surprisingly effective as both a mystery and a high school comedy." The takeaway: "Much more than just 'Who drew the dicks?'"
► Showtime renews I'm Dying Up Here. In a move that surprised industry insiders, the cabler has opted to renew its Jim Carrey-produced drama about the stand-up comedy scene in the 1970s.
+ Season two, which will again consist of 10 episodes, will begin production in the fall for a 2018 debut. Sources say the pickup is part of a larger package deal that also includes another show.
► ABC rebooting Greatest American Hero. A female-led reboot of the beloved '80s series has landed at the network with a hefty put pilot commitment. Fresh Off the Boat writer-producer Rachna Fruchbom will pen the pilot.
► Syfy scraps The Machine reboot. The cabler has passed on a series remake of the 2013 artificial-intelligence film. The project would have brought Battlestar Galactica grad Katee Sackhoff back to the network.
► NBC developing new political drama. The network has handed out a script commitment to drama Accidental Candidate, which counts former Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez as an exec producer.
► Fox Business brings back Charles Payne... An investigation into sexual harassment charges made against the host was completed and he returned to his Making Money show Friday evening.
► ...Fox News cuts ties with Eric Bolling. The anchor had been suspended since August after a HuffPost report claimed he sent lewd texts to colleagues. Spokesperson: "Fox News Channel is canceling The Specialists, and Eric Bolling and Fox have agreed to part ways amicably."
► NFL TV ratings down for opener. The Thursday game, which saw the Kansas City Chiefs upset the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, earned an overnight 14.6 rating among households. That's down from the 16.5 rating for the comparable outing last year.
Emmys: Virtual reality is getting more important. Carolyn Giardina surveys the landscape of six VR projects — based on series ranging from The Simpsons to Stranger Things — vying for Creative Arts awards. Details.
What else we're reading...
— "Have we already seen the festival's best movie?" Justin Chang's Toronto note on Ex Libris: "Frederick Wiseman’s almost indecently rich and stimulating new documentary ... represents a landmark achievement." [The Los Angeles Times]
— "Will Jessica Chastain be a player for Molly’s Game?" Kyle Buchanan's Oscar watch: "She’s in every single scene and nearly every single shot, and ... she delivers enough dialogue to power two whole movies." [Vulture]
— "What caused Hollywood's summer from hell?" Derek Thompson writes: "The blame for the industry’s horrendous last few months lies with a decades-long shift in the economics of making movies." [The Atlantic]
— "A different brand of leading man." Wesley Morris writes: "The fall movie schedule is filled with films, but few seem to be relying on their men to lead." [The New York Times]
— "Hanging out with Jared Leto." Josh Elles' profile: "An Oscar-winning actor who is also a tech entrepreneur, stadium-filling rock star, fashion icon and successful Silicon Valley investor?" [WSJ. magazine]
Today's birthdays: Zoe Kazan, 34, Michelle Williams, 37, Eric Stonestreet, 46, Adam Sandler, 51, Charles Esten, 52, Hugh Grant, 57.