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BERLIN — The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has cast a pall over the Berlin Film Festival, where the late actor was set to be this weekend promoting his Sundance film God’s Pocket and Prohibition-era drama Ezekiel Moss, a passion project starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal that he was set to direct.
Hoffman, who was found dead from an apparent drug overdose Feb. 2, was no stranger to the festival. Several of his movies played in Berlin, including Capote, Magnolia and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
On Wednesday, festival organizers told The Hollywood Reporter that it will pay tribute to the late actor by rolling out a 35mm print of Capote, which earned Hoffman the Oscar for best actor.
Berlinale organizers are still working out technical and rights issues — not easy at a fully digital era festival — but expect to announce the time and location of the screening soon.
Only late last week Exclusive Media came aboard to handle international rights to Ezekiel Moss, which Hoffman had long wanted to make. He and Exclusive were planning to present the project to foreign buyers in Berlin at a Soho House bash this weekend.
Following Hoffman’s death, Exclusive Media quickly announced it would not be shopping Ezekiel Moss at the European Film Market while the company and the producers “explore the next steps for the film.”
Hoffman would have been on double duty in Berlin, where God’s Pocket, one of his last films, is being introduced to foreign buyers by Electric Entertainment.
The film made its world premiere last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was acquired for the U.S. by IFC Films.
“We are all quite shocked,” says Electric’s Sonia Mehandjiyska. “In addition to starring, he was a producer on the movie. We were arranging to have him in our office in Berlin, and wanted to have a cocktail party. On a personal level, I’m such a big fan of his, and I’m devastated.”
Raisa Fomina, a Russian sales agent and veteran EFM attendee, echoed Mehandjiyska’s sentiment, summing up the sad impact Hoffman’s death has had on the industry and beyond.
“His death was a shock for professional critics and was much discussed,” Fomina said. “For regular filmgoers who watch art house films, it was a blow, especially since he was in the prime of his career.”
God’s Pocket isn’t the only project in Berlin likely to spark plenty of interest, and conversation, because of recent headlines.
U.K.-based sales and finance banner WestEnd Films is offering foreign distributors a teaser trailer from filmmaker Michael Winterbottom‘s Face of an Angel, which is loosely derived from Rome-based American journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau‘s book about the initial 2009 trial of Amanda Knox, starring Kate Beckinsale, Daniel Bruhl and Cara Delevingne.
Less than a week ago, as news broke of an Italian appeals court decision to reinstate Knox’s conviction for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, the filmmaker’s team said it would not impact the film, which is currently in postproduction.
Also grabbing headlines and dominating water cooler conversations across the EFM and beyond is Woody Allen as the to-and-fro of sexual abuse allegations and denials continue to fly and people debate whether or not the merits of Allen’s work outweigh the noise of allegation.
Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight will continue to be sold at the Berlin market by FilmNation, Glen Basner’s sales and finance banner, and was enjoying buzz from the box office success and positive notices from Allen’s Blue Jasmine (FilmNation first launched Magic in the Moonlight at the American Film Market in November).
Sony Pictures Classics announced it acquired all North American rights to Magic in the Moonlight before the EFM.
Set among the high society of the south of France in the 1920s, the film stars Eileen Atkins, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, Emma Stone and Jacki Weaver. The romantic comedy follows an Englishman who is brought in to help unmask a possible scam, and “personal and professional complications ensue.”
And it is clear European buyers are showing little sign of dampened enthusiasm for the filmmaker’s work in the face of the increasingly gnarly allegations and denials.
“Lots of people are talking about it, but frankly, it isn’t putting anyone off buying the films,” one veteran industry buyer told THR. “People have often been asked to forgive or forget or ignore allegations if the art is perceived to be good enough, and the Woody Allen situation has not seemed to put buyers in Europe off at all. It might even make it more attractive as a prospect, because audiences will go to the movie to see how they feel about that balance.”
Scott Roxborough and Nick Holdsworth contributed to this report.
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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures