'Casino Jack' rolls dice in Toronto

Kevin Spacey-starrer back in play after sale falls through

TORONTO -- In what is shaping up as one of the best acquisition title fields at the Toronto International Film Festival in years, CAA will be shopping George Hickenlooper's "Casino Jack," starring Kevin Spacey, in two weeks' time.

CAA earlier sold the U.S. rights to the true-life drama about convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of Rollercoaster Entertainment to James Schramm's Metropolitan Inc., but that deal fell through a few weeks ago.

So the U.S. theatrical distribution rights are back on the table, and Rollercoaster's Gary Howsam says the film's producer, Hannibal Pictures, and CAA plan a full-court press in Toronto.

"We produced the film in Toronto. We hoped to have the world premiere here, and we got that," Howsam said.

Spacey will be in Toronto on the first weekend to do a press junket for the U.S. and foreign press.

And the film's producers plan a "Casino Jack Creative Coalition" party on the first Sunday night (Sept. 12) to also drum up word of mouth.

That will all come before the film's high-profile debut at Roy Thomson Hall on Thursday, Sept. 16, with co-stars Barry Pepper, Jon Lovitz and Kelly Preston tub-thumping on the red carpet, and at a planned afterparty.

Spacey strode into Toronto in 1999 with "American Beauty" on his way to Oscar glory, and Howsam hints at a possible repeat with "Casino Jack."

"He (Spacey) sees this film as strong a performance, and a few people feel likewise," Howsam says, planting Oscar seeds in Toronto.

Hickenlooper directed "Casino Jack" from an original screenplay by Norman Snider.

Howsam, Bill Marks and George Zakk produced the film, with Richard Rionda Del Castro, Donald Zuckerman, Lewin Webb, Dana Brunetti, Patricia Eberle, Warren Nimchuk, Angelo Paletta and Domenic Serafino serving as executive producers.

Rick Chad is an associate producer.

Hannibal Pictures is handling international sales.