Berlin 2012: Star-Studded Projects Open Hot Movie Market

The European Film Market gets under way with a cascade of high-profile projects.

BERLIN — The temperature in the German capital remains sub-zero, but the caliber of projects lining up for Berlin's European Film Market could make for some balmy dealmaking.

There's been a cascade of high-profile projects revealed on the eve of the market, which gets under way Thursday. One announcement sure to garner keen attention: Summit Entertainment confirmed that Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined Sylvester Stallone on crime actioner The Tomb.

And Sierra/Affinity announced Wednesday that director Brian De Palma, British action star Jason Statham and screenwriter William Goldman are teaming on the thriller Heat, a remake of the 1987 film starring Burt Reynolds as an ex-CIA hitman running from his past. It begins shooting in France late this year or early next.

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And foreign distributors who snatched up rights at AFM to Terrence Malick’s next two star-studded films got more good news with the addition of Natalie Portman to both titles, which FilmNation is handling. Lawless stars Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara, while Knight of Cups features Bale, Blanchett and Isabel Lucas.

FilmNation’s high-profile new Berlin title is the Philip Seymour Hoffman project A Most Wanted Man, a modern-day thriller that Berlin festival jury member Anton Corbijn is directing.

“Going in, it looks like there are bigger and more commercial titles in Berlin this year than there were at the AFM,” said Helge Sasse, CEO of German indie distributor Senator Films.

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But Berlin — still not as big a market as AFM in Santa Monica and Cannes — can be a mixed bag, particularly when the European economy is in turmoil. Some buyers caution that the Euro woes could make some negotiations difficult.

“It’s about money and pricing,” says IM Global CEO Stuart Ford. “When things are tough, Berlin suffers.”

Ford is coming to EFM with at least two new projects: the Katherine Heigl film noir puppet comedy Happytime Murders, and the potential Catherine Hardwicke-Evan Rachel Wood pairing Plush, an erotic thriller set in the L.A. music world.

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With sellers going for lower-risk bets, projects that have top talent or established genres should deliver the goods.

Sales veteran Lisa Wilson, who arrives in Berlin heading her new sales shingle, the Solution Entertaiment Group, believes it is still “a buyers market” even though she thinks weakness in the Eurozone could be partially balanced by stronger sales to China, India, Brazil and the CIS.

There’s several high-profile new horror and thriller titles, always a big draw among foreign buyers. They include Sierra/Affinity’s horror film Wer, director William Brent Bell’s follow-up to box-office success The Devil Inside. On the eve of EFM, FilmDistrict announced it will co-finance the film and possibly distribute domestically.

And Exclusive Media announced supernatural thriller-horror title The Quiet Ones, directed by John Pogue and produced by Exclusive’s Hammer Films, which is coming off the successful debut of The Woman in Black. Exclusive will launch the title to foreign buyers here, along with the Mark Ruffalo-Scarlett Johansson feel-good romantic drama Can a Song Save Your Life?

Johansson has another project at Berlin, a Voltage Pictures untitled comedy that will mark Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut (he’ll also star).

Another actress getting attention at Berlin will be Kate Hudson, who is starring in the newly announced action pic Everly for Crime Scene Pictures and Anonymous Content. Sierra/Affinity is repping that title.

Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.