Ousted Focus CEO James Schamus Will Still Campaign for 'Dallas Buyers Club'

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James Schamus

Schamus may be leaving Focus Features, but his presence at Thursday's Los Angeles premiere of the harrowing AIDS drama heralds his ongoing commitment to the film's awards push.

Thursday's Los Angeles premiere of Dallas Buyers Club, the final film to be released under James Schamus' rule as Focus Features, may have been bittersweet for many -- but not for the perpetually upbeat Schamus.

Making the trip from New York to attend the screening and afterparty at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater on Wilshire Blvd., the recently ousted Focus CEO told THR he will continue lending his support to the awards campaign for the AIDS drama.

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"I will see this all the way through," said Schamus, sporting his trademark bow tie.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, the macho Texas electrician who battled the Federal Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies in his quest for anti-viral medications after being diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s. The movie opens in select theaters Nov. 1.

Both McConaughey and Jared Leto have earned critical acclaim for their performances. Jennifer Garner also stars (all three actors attended Thursday's premiere, although Leto opted to skip the screening).

The movie's Los Angeles premiere was held just weeks after Universal chairman Donna Langley informed Schamus that he was out as CEO of Focus, the specialty label he helped found in 2002.

Heralding a change in direction for Focus, Langely has tapped Peter Schlessel to replace Schamus and diversify the unit's slate of films to include both specialty titles and more-commercial fare. Focus' longtime New York headquarters are being shut down, with L.A. becoming its new home base (the fate of Focus' international sales and financing division -- headquartered in London -- is unclear).

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Schamus is a beloved figure in the art house film world, and there was rousing applause when the movie started and the Focus Features title card appeared.

When introducing Dallas Buyers Club, producers Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter made a point of thanking Schamus (they first thanked Langley and Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer, who likewise attended the event).

"We were thrilled to work with the brilliant James Schamus," Brenner said. "And we are glad our movie will be part of the Focus Features legacy."

Winter and Brenner also thanked Focus co-CEO Andrew Karpen, who has elected to depart the company since staying would have meant relocating to Los Angeles. Karpen, who also attended the premiere, will remain on for the rest of the year to help with the transition.