Weinstein Co. snaps up 'The Tillman Story'

Amir Bar-Lev's doc screened at Sundance two weeks ago

Harvey Weinstein is the new champion of late Iraq War hero Pat Tillman.

In a deal that has been in the works since the film's world premiere at Sundance two weeks ago, the Weinstein Co. has finally nailed down details on its acquisition of North American theatrical, DVD and pay TV rights to the competition documentary "The Tillman Story." Directed by Amir Bar-Lev, the doc is a searing indictment of how the U.S. military handled news of Tillman's 2004 death by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

The Weinstein Co., which plans to release the film this year, also acquired all rights in English-language territories. A&E IndieFilms, which produced the doc, will follow the film's theatrical and home video release with a television broadcast premiere.

Several bidders, including Sony Pictures Classics and Magnolia, expressed interest in the film, which delves into the way the military turned Tillman's death into a propaganda tool and his family's fight to find the truth. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Tillman abandoned his multimillion-dollar football career to join the Army Rangers in 2002, serving several tours of duty before his unfortunate death.

CAA and Josh Braun and Jason Janego of Submarine repped sales of the project, which was also produced by Oscar-winning "One Day in September" producer John Battsek of Passion Pictures. The deal was brokered by Molly Thompson, vp of A&E IndieFilms and Robert Sharenow, senior vp nonfiction and alternative programming at A&E Network. Harvey Weinstein and TWC international head David Glasser negotiated for the Weinstein Co.

"I was blown away by the film when I saw it, and I am thrilled to be in business with Bob DeBitetto and Molly Thompson at A&E," Weinstein said. "John Battsek has made some very successful films and we feel 'The Tillman Story' has great potential to cross over into mainstream markets. This is a story that will touch as well as outrage people, and we are honored to bring it a large audience."

Weinstein and Glasser were out in full force at various screenings throughout the Sundance fest with their acquisitions execs, including the world premiere of "Tillman" attended by Tillman's mother Mary and brother Richard.

TWC also picked up North American theatrical and Pan-Asian satellite rights to the long-in-gestation drama "Blue Valentine" in the last days of the fest. That film is also expected to get a 2010 release.

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The studio was the only buyer to acquire a 2009 Toronto title, Tom Ford's "A Single Man," and shepherd it to success this awards season. No word on whether the studio chief is considering reinstating the film's original title, "I'm Pat _______Tillman," to reflect the war hero's well-known love of salty language.

Bar-Lev directed the docs "Fighter," released in 2001, and "My Kid Could Paint That," which premiered at Sundance in 2007.

Jay A. Fernandez reported from Los Angeles; Gregg Goldstein reported from New York.