IFC will bring 'Penelope' to North America


NEW YORK -- Reese Witherspoon's first film as a producer, "Penelope," has been picked up for theatrical release by IFC Films and home video and TV distribution by the Weinstein Co. in North America.

"Reese has a real knack for producing, from working on a script to hiring technical workers to even suggesting shots to the director," said Stone Village Pictures' Scott Steindorff, who produced the $15 million project with Witherspoon and Jennifer Simpson.

Steindorf wouldn't disclose details of the deal but said it includes a big P&A commitment. A source close to the negotiations placed the overall deal at more than $10 million.

Witherspoon co-stars in the romantic tall tale of a rich girl (Christina Ricci) born with a pig snout who seeks true love to break the curse of her bovine beak. A relentless paparazzo (Peter Dinklage) hires a plant (James McAvoy) to vie for her affection among many scared suitors, but the spy finds himself strangely attracted to the girl he has been hired to expose to the world.

Playing against type, Witherspoon portrays the biker chick the girl befriends after escaping the clutches of her overprotective parents (Catherine O'Hara and Richard E. Grant).

"Penelope" had its world premiere as a Gala Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, heading in as one of the most talked-about projects and ending up on a relatively slow burn towards gaining a distribution. Its sale is one the biggest deals ever for both ICM's Independent and International Film division and IFC Films, which is growing its slate of new features in the $4 million-$10 million range. The film will be released in mid-2007.

"With the obvious appeal of this remarkable cast, inspiring message and beautifully stylish filmmaking, this is a great movie for audiences of all ages," IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring said. "It's the perfect addition to our 2007 slate as we move forward with our plans to acquire and release films with commercial appeal for wide theatrical release."

The project was developed and produced by Witherspoon and Simpson's Type A Films, produced and financed by Stone Village Pictures and the financing was arranged by Grosvenor Park. Leslie Caveny and Phil Robertson co-produced. Dylan Russell, Michael Roban, Chris Curling, Robin Greenspun, Danny Greenspun, Andrew Molasky and Christian Arnold-Beutel served as executive producers.

The deal was negotiated by IFC's Sehring and the Weinstein Co.'s executive acquisitions and co-productions Michelle Krumm on behalf of Stone Village Picture's Andrew Molasky and Scott Steindorff.