EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal of the Toronto Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has acquired Shame, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 drama that was the talk of Telluride. Bidding came down to Searchlight and The Weinstein Company. The film is said to showcase a tour de force performance by Michael Fassbender, who plays a New Yorker unable to manage his sex life when his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment, and his world spirals out of control. Searchlight had been the frontrunner in the bidding. The film is a provocative purchase for a number of reasons: It is unabashedly NC-17, features graphic sex scenes and nudity — one source said “think dungeon sex” — and McQueen has final cut and will not change a frame. It will be a controversial release for Searchlight, whose parent company has already weathered plenty of scandal lately. Also, the deal calls for a late-year release and Best Actor campaign for Fassbender; Searchlight will already be waging a campaign in the same category for George Clooney in the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants. Hanway brokered the Shame deal.
Here’s Searchlight’s release:
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada September 9, 2011 – Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula announced today that the company has acquired U. S. rights to the intimate and provocative drama SHAME. The film is directed by Steve McQueen, written by McQueen and Abi Morgan and stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. SHAME is a See-Saw Films production for Film4 and U.K. Film Council and produced by Iain Canning and Emile Sherman. Tessa Ross, Robert Walak, Peter Hampden and Tim Haslam are executive producers with Bergen Swanson as co-producer. HanWay Films is handling international sales. The film is scheduled to be released in 2011.“Steve McQueen’s courageous exploration of modern life’s extremes is breathtaking. He has crafted an extraordinary film that probes some of the deepest and darkest issues ever portrayed on screen with amazingly gifted performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan,” said Gilula and Utley.“Fox Searchlight contacted us immediately after the screening in Telluride to tell us how much they loved the film. Their approach to marketing and distributing the film this year was incredibly detailed and impressive. We are excited to be working with them on a film that is sparking debate and a strong emotional reaction from audiences,” said Canning and Sherman.“This is a brave statement and an important move by Fox Searchlight. I am very happy they came on board to release Shame in the U.S. It’s great to be working with a team that is so passionate about cinema,” said McQueen.Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a New Yorker who shuns intimacy with women but feeds his desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. When his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment stirring memories of their shared painful past, Brandon’s insular life spirals out of control.The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight’s Executive Vice President of Worldwide Acquisitions Tony Safford, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien, Vice President of Acquisitions Ray Strache with Thorsten Schumacher and Claire Taylor of HanWay Films on behalf of the filmmakers.Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures. It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment, a unit of Fox Entertainment Group.