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A version of this story first appeared in the May 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
It used to be that U.S. distributors didn’t make an offer for an independent film until it had played at a festival and been reviewed. Now there’s so much competition, they’re having to roll the dice and make daring prebuys before a movie is finished. There is no better hunting ground than Cannes and other international film markets, where projects first are touted to foreign buyers. (Harvey Weinstein‘s shop paid $7 million for U.S. rights to The Imitation Game off a promo reel at the 2014 European Film Market in Berlin.) Even before this year’s market, the action has begun. In one pre-emptive buy, Relativity plunked down $3 million for U.S. rights to Shot Caller, a prison drama starring Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, which Sierra/Affinity will introduce to foreign buyers in Cannes. “Cannes was very busy last year for the U.S. market, and I think it will be again,” says Sierra CEO Nick Meyer. Elsewhere on the Croisette, buyers will be treated to footage of the Emma Thompson–Daniel Bruhl Nazi drama Alone in Berlin and the Kevin Spacey starrer Elvis & Nixon. These are the 15 buzziest titles so far, including some that could spark U.S. interest.
All I See Is You
Director: Marc Forster
The Buzz: The thriller, starring Blake Lively and Jason Clarke, follows a blind woman who regains her sight and learns disturbing details about her marriage.
Sales Agent: Sierra/Affinity
Director: Shintaro Shimosawa
The Buzz: The corporate thriller pairs Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino on the big screen for the first time. Josh Duhamel and Malin Akerman co-star. Lionsgate has bought domestic rights, but key territories remain available.
Sales Agent: Film Bridge International
Bleed for This
Director: Ben Younger
The Buzz: In-demand actor Miles Teller plays former boxing champion Vinny Pazienza, who battled back to the top of his sport after a near-fatal car crash. The movie is in postproduction, and buyers at Cannes will see the first sizzle reel.
Sales Agent: The Solution/CAA
Buena Vista Social Club — Adios
Director: Lucy Walker
The Buzz: Sixteen years after Wim Wenders‘ doc brought the famed Cuban musicians to the world stage, the sequel will follow the five remaining original members on their farewell world tour. Broad Green Pictures is producing, financing and will release the doc domestically.
Sales Agent: Mister Smith
Director: Susan Johnson
The Buzz: Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2) stars as a Harvard grad who thinks she can find love and happiness based on a simple checklist. Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard and Vanessa Bayer co-star.
Sales Agent: Radiant/UTA/ICM
Director: Mick Jackson
The Buzz: The legal drama is based on the true story of Deborah Lipstadt, who had to prove the Holocaust happened after being accused of libel for calling British author David Irving a denier. Hilary Swank and Tom Wilkinson star.
Sales Agent: Cornerstone
Director: Michael Grandage
The Buzz: The film, starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Guy Pearce, could ignite a bidding war among U.S. distributors once footage is shown. Now in postproduction, it’s adapted from A. Scott Berg‘s biography of renowned book editor Max Perkins, who worked with Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Sales Agent: FilmNation/CAA
The History of Love
Director: Radu Mihaileanu
The Buzz: Starring John Hurt and Gemma Arterton, Mihaileanu’s English-language debut is an ambitious adaptation of Nicole Krauss‘ 2005 best-seller that follows a man from the Holocaust to modern New York.
Sales Agent: Wild Bunch/CAA
A Hologram for the King
Director: Tom Tykwer
The Buzz: The indie drama, starring Tom Hanks as a washed-up businessman who attempts to reinvent his career in the Middle East, could leave Cannes with a U.S. distribution deal after already selling to much of the world.
Sales Agent: Lotus/CAA
It’s Only the End of the World
Director: Xavier Dolan
The Buzz: The Canadian filmmaker, a Cannes regular who will serve on this year’s jury, recently began shooting the family drama about a writer who returns to his hometown to tell his family he is dying. The cast includes Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel.
Sales Agent: Seville
Director: Tom Ford
The Buzz: Like Genius, the project is red-hot and could sell in the U.S. even though it hasn’t begun shooting. The movie, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, tells two stories: that of a woman, Susan, who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, forcing her to confront painful truths about herself; and that of the manuscript, Nocturnal Animals, about a man whose family vacation turns deadly.
Sales Agent: FilmNation/CAA
Please Stand By
Director: Ben Lewin
The Buzz: Dakota Fanning will portray a young woman with autism who, with her nurse (Helen Hunt), takes a road trip to Hollywood for a script contest.
Sales Agent: Embankment/CAA
Director: Gavin Wiesen
The Buzz: Newly minted Oscar winner J.K. Simmons will play a father who learns his daughter is missing and enlists the help of her awkward boyfriend (Emile Hirsch).
Sales Agent: The Solution/UTA/Gersh
Untitled Beatles Documentary
Director: Ron Howard
The Buzz: The authorized doc will trace The Fab Four from their days playing the clubs of Liverpool, England, and Hamburg, Germany, through their final appearance in 1966 at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Apple Corps Ltd., Imagine Entertainment and Nigel Sinclair‘s White Horse Pictures are producing.
Sales Agent: StudioCanal and White Horse Pictures
Director: Gurinder Chadha
The Buzz: Downton Abbey fans, rejoice: Hugh Bonneville (aka Lord Grantham) has closed a deal to star in Chadha’s period drama, set in India during the waning days of British rule. Gillian Anderson also stars in the film, set to shoot this year.
Sales Agent: Pathe
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