EXCLUSIVE:The Weinstein Company is near a deal to acquire U.S. rights to an untitled period drama that James Gray wrote and directed, with Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner starring. Gray has completed the film, and The Weinstein Company will release it next year. The project was one of the juicier packages shopped at the recent Cannes Film Festival by CAA and Wild Bunch. Greg Shapiro, Anthony Katagas, Gray and Worldview CEO Christopher Woodrow are producers. CAA and Worldview made the deal with TWC execs David Glasser, Dan Guando and Negeen Yazdi.
Gray wrote the script with Richard Menello. Early on it was called Low Life and American Dream, but Gray’s camp says it is currently untitled. The film takes place in 1920, as two sisters immigrate to New York from Poland, and when one falls deathly ill, things turn nightmarish for the other sister, played by Cotillard. She is forced to trade sexual favors for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened. Though she does, she walks away with immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals.
With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York. Renner plays the parasite’s cousin, a magician who sweeps the young woman off her feet and is her best chance to escape the nightmarish life she has fallen into. It’s Gray’s fourth film with Phoenix, who previously starred in The Yards, We Own The Night and most recently Two Lovers. It also marks Gray’s second film with Harvey Weinstein, who also distributed The Yards. That one ended contentiously, but it was a long time ago and I’m told that TWC has big plans for this one.