How Sony Nabbed Quentin Tarantino's Manson Movie

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Quentin Tarantino

To acquire the project, the studio had to agree to the filmmaker’s lofty demands, including, sources say, a $95  million production budget, final cut and "extraordinary creative controls."

In the wake of the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, his career-long collaborator Quentin Tarantino’s next movie became one of the hottest projects in years on Hollywood’s auction block.

Sony Pictures Entertainment on Nov. 8 made a high-powered presentation that included chairman Tom Rothman, Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch and marketing president Josh Greenstein, but the studio had to wait on pins and needles for more than a week before learning it beat out Warner Bros. and Paramount to land worldwide distribution rights to the film.

It’s a significant win for Sony, given its currently anemic slate, but to acquire the project, the studio had to contend with Tarantino’s lofty demands, including, sources say, a $95 million production budget, final cut and “extraordinary creative controls,” plus a whopping 25 percent of first-dollar gross. Another demand was that the rights to the movie revert to him after 10 to 20 years.

The film, which has a working title of #9 (it will be Tarantino’s ninth movie), will have to make $375 million worldwide to break even, according to one source. Tough negotiations occurred between the parties, and a Sony insider says that Tarantino did not get the full 25 percent of first-dollar gross that he had requested.

In July, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Tarantino, 54, was working on the new movie, described as a 1969-set ensemble piece that in some way involves Charles Manson and the murder of Sharon Tate. Sony’s pickup came with no actors attached, but overtures have been made to such A-listers as Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie.

Warner Bros. also made a splashy presentation — it decked out part of its lot and executive conference room in late 1960s regalia — and was thought by many to have the inside track due to the involvement of David Heyman, who came on board as a producer after it became clear that Tarantino would not be working with Weinstein. Heyman produced the Harry Potter movies for Warners as well as the Oscar-winning hit Gravity.

But Sony handled the foreign release of Tarantino’s 2012 spaghetti Western Django Unchained, which is the highest-grossing movie of his career to date, with $262 million of the $425 million total coming from international territories.

In a Friday email confirming the deal, Rothman wrote: “[Tarantino] remembers well the outstanding job the company did on Django, and was particularly impressed last week by the presentation of our marketing and distribution capabilities, both domestically and internationally.” 

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Nov. 18, 4:40 p.m. Updated with additional information about the negotiation.