Sneak Peek: Most anticipated movies at Cannes


QED Intl.
Oliver Stone is back with his most controversial movie since 1991's "JFK," a biography of George W. Bush that started filming in April in Louisiana. Josh Brolin, riding the wave of the Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men," plays Bush, with James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn as his parents and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush. The script, at one time referred to as "Bush" but now known as "W," was written by 1987's "Wall Street" scribe Stanley Weiser. Longtime Stone associate Moritz Borman produces with Jon Kilik (2006's "Babel") and QED's Bill Block.

Nu Image/Millennium Films
Antoine Fuqua directs this crime drama starring Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin and Fuqua's "Training Day" (2001) star Ethan Hawke. The script has an interesting history: It was written by Michael Martin, a New York City tollbooth worker who, while undergoing physical therapy after totaling his car, wrote the screenplay, which drew on his experiences working for a bus company with mafia connections. Mary Viola produces the picture, which starts shooting in this month.

Ealing Intl.
Acclaimed British stage and screen director Richard Eyre goes behind the camera for the first time since 2006's "Notes on a Scandal" with this adaptation of German novelist Bernhard Schlink's short story. The movie, based on a tale that appeared in his collection "Flights of Love," is one of two Schlink projects now headed for the screen -- the other being Stephen Daldry's adaptation of "The Reader." Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Laura Linney and Romola Garai star in this tale about the complicated relationship that develops between two men when one discovers that the other had a long-running affair with his late wife. Eyre scripted with his "Iris" (2001) collaborator, Charles Wood. Frank Doelger, who brought HBO's well-regarded "Rome" to the small screen, produces with Eyre, Michael Dreyer, Mary Beth O'Connor and David Richenthal. The movie is currently shooting on location in
England and Italy.

Summit Intl.
Following back-to-back collaborations with screenwriter Ronald
Harwood (on 2002's "The Pianist" and 2005's "Oliver Twist"), Oscar winner Roman Polanski teams up with another U.K.-based writer, best-selling novelist Robert Harris, to adapt Harris' latest tome, "The Ghost." The story is a thriller about a ghostwriter who, when working on the memoirs of a former British prime minister with a striking resemblance to Tony Blair, stumbles on information that suddenly puts his life at risk. Alain Sarde and Robert Benmussa produce.

Summit Intl.
Brad Pitt and Sean Penn co-star in Terrence Malick's latest movie, a drama that began shooting in Texas earlier this year and whose subject has been kept under wraps. The project has been in the works for several years and at one point was meant to star Colin Farrell and then Heath Ledger, with some of the movie shot in India. Bill Pohlad (2005's "Brokeback Mountain") produces through his River Road Entertainment with frequent Malick collaborator Sarah Green.

Essential Entertainment
Renee Zellweger toplines this comedy for director Richard Loncraine (2002's "The Gathering Storm"), based on a script by Charlie Peters (1981's "Paternity"). The movie is set in the 1950s and centers on a young boy who tells his mother's story as she drives down the Eastern Seaboard and then into Hollywood in search of a wealthy husband. Aaron Ryder produces the film, which starts shooting later this month in Baltimore.

The Film Department
One of the first films greenlighted by Mark Gill and Neil Sacker's the Film Department, this romantic comedy features Catherine Zeta-Jones as a newly divorced mother who falls in love with her 26-year-old male nanny, despite the awkwardness created by their age gap. Bart Freundlich (1997's "The Myth of Fingerprints") writes and directs the film, which was due to start filming in New York in late April.


The Film Department
Another movie being brought to market by the Film Department could not be more different. This suspense thriller stars Gerard Butler (2006's "300") as a prosecutor forced to use all his skill to get to the bottom of a series of gruesome murders orchestrated by a man serving a prison sentence. The movie starts shooting in the fall, based on a script by Kurt Wimmer (1999's "The Thomas Crown Affair"). No director has yet been attached.

Focus Features
Sean Penn and Josh Brolin are teaming with director Gus Van Sant to bring one of the helmer's dream projects to the screen. Penn plays gay politician Harvey Milk, with Brolin (replacing the originally attached Matt Damon) as his killer, Dan White, in this real-life story about the assassination of the 1970s San Francisco city supervisor and its mayor, George Moscone. Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna also star. Producer Michael London (2004's "Sideways") of Groundswell Prods. is backing the film, which is also produced by "American Beauty" Oscar winners Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen. This project was racing against another Milk bio, "The Mayor of Castro Street," which director Bryan Singer attempted to get off the ground, but with Singer still wrapping the much-delayed Tom Cruise starrer "Valkyrie," the Van Sant version may now have an edge.

Mandate Intl.
Fresh from her star-making turn in Mandate's "Juno," Ellen Page is returning to the comedy genre with "Whip It!," which also marks the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore. Page plays a rock-n-roll-loving misfit named Bliss, who grows up in a small Texas town where she is always being pushed into beauty pageants until she falls in love with roller-derbying. The movie's writer, Shauna Cross, draws on her own experiences as a roller derby star known as Maggie Mayhem. Shooting gets under way later this summer. Barry Mendel (1998's "Rushmore") produces with Barrymore's Flower Films.

Focus Features
Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes takes his first stab at a contemporary comedy since 1999's "American Beauty" with this movie based on an original screenplay by novelist Dave Eggers ("A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius") and Vendela Vida. Comics John Krasinski (NBC's "The Office") and Maya Rudolph (NBC's "Saturday Night Live") play an expectant couple who travel around the U.S. searching for a place to call home. Jeff Daniels, Toni Collette and Allison Janey co-star. The film comes just after Mendes wrapped Paramount Vantage's "Revolutionary Road," which will be released later this year. It began shooting late April in Connecticut.

The Going Rate
Estimated prices for all rights to theatrical films in overseas markets

See chart 1
See chart 2

Great expectations usually accompany a new international film market.

Not so this year.

As low- and medium-budget indie distributors unwrap their new lineups at the May 14-23 Marche du Film in Cannes, one is most likely to hear "pretty bleak" about their chances to license product to the international marketplace.

Foreign presales have practically vanished, and a new crop of sugar daddies -- domestic and foreign private-equity investors -- may be pulling back as fears of an international financial crisis continue to gain momentum.

Paradoxically, the entry of big-money barons has been a double-edged sword. While their contributions have helped stimulate production for the indie trade, it has also escalated a highly competitive market, with a glut of films frequently causing prices to tumble. As a result, too many films fail to achieve a single sale in the international market. It's gotten so bad, said one frustrated seller, that you can't give films away, with buyers even declining to take on sales for video and TV on a percentage basis.

It's a boom-or-bust situation, say the foreign sales experts, who maintain that good deals can be made for unique films with recognizable directors and stars backed by studio domestic releases. But the foreign market, they warn, cannot absorb the large number of films that are available.

The prices listed here have no backing from any industry organization and are only meant to serve as an estimated guide. Distribution consultant and former AFMA chairman William Shields, Global Cinema Group president Peter Elson and Compliance Consulting president Rob Aft assisted in analyzing the price structure.