Cannes: What’s With All the Boxing Movies?

Courtesy of Maxine Leonard
'Bleed for This'

Open Road’s $4 million for 'Bleed for This' puts three pugilistic films on the 2015 calendar.

Who knew that Floyd Mayweather’s recent win over Manny Pacquiao — generating more than $400 million in pay-per-view revenue — would energize the Cannes Film Festival?

U.S. distributors suddenly are stepping into the ring big-time for boxing dramas in a risky bet that will see at least three movies open this year, testing the collective audience’s appetite for a genre that has a history of dramatic highs and lows at the box office.

In the early hours of May 17, afterer seeing 12 minutes of footage on the ground at Cannes the day before, Open Road Films agreed to pay $4 million for U.S. rights to Bleed for This, starring Miles Teller (Whiplash, The Fantastic Four) as boxing legend Vinny Pazienza and Aaron Eckhart as his coach.

And just as Cannes got underway, The Weinstein Company scooped up U.S. rights to Hands of Stone after seeing footage of the biopic, starring Edgar Ramirez as legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran. Robert De Niro plays Duran’s coach. (Coincidentally, Martin Scorsese, who directed De Niro in the iconic boxing film Raging Bull, is executive producing Bleed for This.)



Hands of Stone is the second prestige boxing drama that Harvey Weinstein’s team has swung for: On July 24, TWC is set to release Southpaw, the first boxing drama of 2015. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams.

“[Jake’s] transformation in Southpaw is stunning physically. What he did with Antoine is work together in a way that I saw Scorsese and De Niro work,” Weinstein said during a presentation at Cannes of the company’s upcoming slate. “And Hands of Stone…is a lot better than the Pacquiao fight,” added Weinstein, noting that Hands of Stone won’t open until spring 2016.

That doesn’t mean Southpaw will be the sole boxing drama seeking awards attention. Insiders say Open Road will mount an awards run for Bleed for This, which means the film will have a fall or winter release.

But that could put Hands of Stone’s release close to that of Creed, which aims to reinvent the Rocky franchise. Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) the film — which Warner Bros. hopes will be a prestige drama — stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. As the son of Apollo Creed, Jordan’s character asks Rocky Balboa to train him. Warners releases Creed on Nov. 25.

“Whenever you have so many films that are the same,” says one veteran film distributor, “you want to be the first or the last, and not the one in the middle.”