Toronto: Russell Crowe Drama 'True History of the Kelly Gang' Nabbed by IFC (Exclusive)

True History of the Kelly Gang - TIFF - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of TIFF

Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam and George MacKay also star in Justin Kurzel's period film, which will make its world premiere in Toronto's Gala section on Wednesday.

IFC Films has acquired North American rights to Justin Kurzel's True History of the Kelly Gang just days ahead of its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film, which is dubbed a fictionalized retelling of the life and crimes of the infamous 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, stars Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult and Charlie Hunnam. George MacKay (Sam Mendes’ upcoming 1917, Captain Fantastic) plays Kelly in a potential breakout performance.

IFC beat out three other distributors for the film, which was screened for buyers ahead of the market and will make its world premiere in Toronto's Gala section on Sept. 11. A source pegged the deal at seven figures.

The deal on Thursday marked the second on the ground at the Toronto market. Hours before, Magnolia Pictures landed worldwide rights to the music documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, the opening night film at the fest.

Essie Davis (The Babadook) and Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) round out the cast of True History of the Kelly Gang alongside Orlando Schwerdt, Sean Keenan, Earl Cave, Marlon Williams and Louis Hewison. The deal puts IFC back in business with Kurzel, as the indie label previously released the Aussie helmer's acclaimed crime drama The Snowtown Murders, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Critics Week in Cannes in 2011. Kurzel's directing credits also include a pair of Michael Fassbender-starring vehicles, Assassin’s Creed and Macbeth.

Shaun Grant (Snowtown Murders) adapted the screenplay for True History of the Kelly Gang from Peter Carey’s Man Booker prize-winning novel of the same name, which sheds light on Australia's brutal past. Spanning the younger years of Kelly’s life to the time leading up to his death at the age of 25, the pic explores the blurred boundaries between what is bad and what is good and the motivations behind the demise of its hero. Youth and tragedy collide in the story, which also explores the love between a mother and a son.

The film was produced by Hal Vogel, Liz Watts, Paul Ranford and Kurzel. Executive producers include David Aukin, Vincent Sheehan, Peter Carey, Daniel Battsek, Sue Bruce-Smith, Sam Lavender, Emilie Georges, Naima Abed, Raphael Perchet, Brad Feinstein, David Gross and Grant.

IFC will release True History of the Kelly Gang theatrically in 2020.

“We are delighted to be working with Justin once more on this tour-de-force work," Arianna Bocco, executive vp acquisitions and productions at IFC Films, said in a statement. "It’s an honor when partnerships come full circle, and we look forward to working with the team to make the film a success.”

Added IFC Films co-president Lisa Schwartz: “We are thrilled to bring this extraordinary true story to audiences across North America. Particularly, excited to be showcasing such bold performances and working again with many from this outstanding ensemble cast.”

True History of the Kelly Gang is a Porchlight Films and Daybreak Pictures production. Major production investment came from Screen Australia, La Cinefacture and Film4 in association with Film Victoria, Asia Film Investment Group and Memento Films International.

The deal was negotiated by Bocco and Betsy Rodgers of IFC Films. CAA Media Finance and UTA Independent Film Group represented the filmmakers.