This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Shop Till You Drop at Cannes
There aren’t as many big-ticket projects at this year’s film market (yet), but there are plenty of dramas and biopics boasting top talent — from Martin Scorsese to Justin Timberlake — who will turn up to seduce buyers.
To sell distribution rights to projects that have yet to begin filming, sales agents promise stars, but can they deliver? The foreign sales arena was rocked by the recent drama surrounding Natalie Portman‘s Western Jane Got a Gun, which lost its director (Lynne Ramsay, since replaced by Gavin O’Connor) then its leading men (Jude Law dropped out; Bradley Cooper was in, then out; Ewan McGregor is now in talks for the role). Because it’s harder than ever to close deals with much-in-demand talent, it’s more difficult to take a script to a film market. Before investing, buyers want assurances that a star will be available to start shooting. At this year’s Cannes Film Market, for example, both Reese Witherspoon and Amy Adams have two projects each being shopped at script stage. Sales agents insist the scheduling will all work out, but the uncertainty could make for added drama on the Croisette.
Untitled Amy Winehouse Project
Director: Asif Kapadia
Foreign Sales Company: Focus Features Intl.
The authorized documentary, relying on previously unseen footage of the doomed singer, who died in July 2011 from alcohol poisoning, is among a slew of music-themed projects coming to Cannes. Kapadia earned his spurs by directing the acclaimed racing doc Senna.
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz
Director: Tim Burton
Foreign Sales Company: The Weinstein Co.
A biopic of artists Walter and Margaret Keane, who fought for years after their divorce over which of them actually was responsible for a popular series of paintings of big-eyed children that made them famous in the 1950s and ’60s.
Starring: Bradley Cooper
Director: John Wells
Foreign Sales Company The Weinstein Co.
Cooper — who played an Anthony Bourdain-type cook in the sitcom Kitchen Confidential — dons the chef hat again, though he first shoots Steven Spielberg‘s American Sniper. In Chef, Cooper will play a rising Paris chef who is sidestepped by booze and drugs before opening his own eatery.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Foreign Sales Company: Voltage
Focus already is planning a 2013 awards campaign for the HIV/AIDS drama, based on the real-life story of Ron Woodroof, who smuggles non-FDA-approved drugs to AIDS patients.
Get It While You Can
Starring: Amy Adams
Director: Lee Daniels
Foreign Sales Company: IM Global
Will this Janis Joplin biopic, in the works for more than a decade, finally get going? Adams is set to star as the iconic 1960s singer. Daniels, who will direct a script by music industry veteran Ron Terry and Theresa Kounin-Terry, will be in Cannes to meet with foreign buyers.
Starring: John Travolta
Director: Joe Johnston
Foreign Sales Company: IM Global
Can producer Ted Fields save the day and finally deliver Travolta his dream of playing mob boss John Gotti? (WME handles domestic.) Travolta has another project coming to the market, the art-heist pic The Forger from Code Entertainment and The Solution.
Starring: Michelle Monaghan, Radha Mitchell, Michael Weston
Director: Jessie McCormack
Foreign Sales Company: Lightning Entertainment
Hilarity and chaos ensue when a young woman decides to give her baby to her best friend, a married woman who is childless and eager to raise a child with her husband. ICM is handling U.S.
How to Make Love Like an Englishman
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jessica Alba
Director: Tom Vaughan
Foreign Sales Company: The Solution
Brosnan stars in this sexually charged romantic comedy as an English professor who finally meets his match in Olivia (Scott Thomas) when he gets her younger sister (Alba) pregnant.
The Last Witch Hunter
Starring: Vin Diesel
Director: Breck Eisner
Foreign Sales Company: Lionsgate Intl.
The Fast & Furious movies have made Diesel a worldwide brand, and in this Summit actioner, he’s part of a centuries-old tribe of cursed witch hunters.
Starring: Edgar Ramirez
Director: Alberto Arvelo
Foreign Sales Company: Mundial
The historical epic, in postproduction and starring Ramirez as legendary Venezuelan military and political leader Simon Bolivar, is one of the largest Venezuelan productions ever mounted.
Starring: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Gabourey Sidibe
Director: Susanna Fogel
Foreign Sales Company: Myriad
Fogel’s script — developed at the 2012 Sundance Screenwriters Lab — follows a co-dependent friendship between two very different girls who both meet a charming doctor. UTA and WME are co-repping domestic rights.
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Keanu Reeves
Director: Brian Kirk
Foreign Sales Company Exclusive Media Intl.
This sci-fi love story, set on a starship transporting human cargo, has been a passion project of Reeves, who finally found a leading lady.
Starring: Lily Collins
Director: Burr Steers
Foreign Sales Company: Panorama
Another long-gestating project appears to be getting a second life. Panorama, Megan Ellison’s international sales outfit, is taking the project to Cannes. CAA packaged and is repping domestic rights.
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce, Mikael Persbrandt
Director: Kristian Levring
Foreign Sales Company: TrustNordisk
In this Western, Mikkelsen plays an 1870s American who, after his family is murdered, goes on a bloody trail of revenge. It’s currently shooting in South Africa, so buyers in Cannes should see footage.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Director: Tarsem Singh
Foreign Sales Company: FilmNation
The team behind the global box-office hit Looper — CAA, Endgame Entertainment and FilmDistrict — is reuniting on this supernatural thriller. Selfless tells the story of a wealthy older man who pays to have his mind transplanted into a younger man’s body.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Foreign Sales Company: IM Global/Axis Films
Scorsese personally will be in town to plug the Emmett/Furla Films project to foreign buyers, hoping to raise enough financing to greenlight this adaptation of Shusaku Endo‘s novel about the Jesuits who brought Christianity to 17th century Japan. WME is repping domestic.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Fan Bingbing
Director: Sam Fell
Foreign Sales Company: Exclusive Media
Exclusive Media is co-financing and co-producing the action comedy with Beijing-based Talent International Film Co., guaranteeing that the English-language film will get distribution in China. The sellers will emphasize Chan’s global star status and Fan’s growing fan base.
Starring: Justin Timberlake
Foreign Sales Company: Foresight Unlimited
Timberlake will play infamous record exec Neil Bogart, who helped usher in the disco era. CAA is packaging the project and repping domestic rights. Timberlake will use his star power to charm buyers in Cannes, where he’ll also be walking the red carpet for the world premiere of the Coen brothers‘ Inside Llewyn Davis.
Three Little Words
Starring: Reese Witherspoon
Director: James Mangold
Foreign Sales Company: Good Universe
Witherspoon is reuniting with Mangold for the first time since Walk the Line, which won her the Oscar for best actress. An adaptation of the memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter about growing up in the Florida foster care system, the drama stars Witherspoon as a volunteer who tries to help a young girl.
Starring: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche
Director: Fred Schepisi
Foreign Sales Company: Voltage Pictures
He’s a writer and poet who traffics in words; she’s a painter who focuses on pictures. They’re both teachers in a New England prep school, where as they spar, initial dislike turns to rivalry turns to attraction.