BREAKING: Since forming 11 years ago, Focus Features has been a relative bastion of stability. That will remain so as CEO James Schamus has re-upped for a new term, and Andrew Karpen, president since 2006, has been promoted to co-CEO. Schamus will remain a creative catalyst for the company, while Karpen oversees the global business strategy for the company and will continue to spearhead the company’s digital initiatives. Together, they run all aspects of the company, including acquisitions and worldwide production, marketing, and distribution. Karpen continues to report to Schamus, who hatched the label with David Linde in 2002. Schamus reports to Universal co-chairman Donna Langley.
These are stand-up guys who come to the Croisette with the hottest project in Hollywood, and one which they are not selling here, at least not yet. That’s 50 Shades Of Grey, the adaptation of the steamy novel that has sold 70 million copies worldwide, and which Langley won in a huge multi-million dollar bidding battle, and then placed it with taste-maker label Focus, to be produced by Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca. That project is still forming and while there might be some hot and bothered whispering here at the Croisette (it’s unclear whether its partner, Universal, will let any territories go), the focus here for International head of Distribution and Sales Alison Thompson is on Mike Leigh’s new film, which stars Timothy Spall as the painter J.M.W. Turner; the Asif Kapadia-directed docu on Amy Winehouse; and new Focus titles that the Michael Cuesta-directed fact-based thriller Kill The Messenger with Jeremy Renner, and the Andrew MacDonald-directed undersea adventure film Black Sea with Jude Law. FFI will also world premiere Ruairi Robinson’s thriller The Last Days On Mars, starring Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, and Romola Garai in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight section.
Focus is coming off a good run with the Derek Cianfrance-directed The Place Beyond The Pines, and has upcoming The World’s End, the comedy reuniting director Edgar Wright with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; Closed Circuit, the John Crowley-directed suspense thriller starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. Going into awards season, Focus has the Jean-Marc Vallee-helmed Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner. Next year brings the Michael Cuesta-directed Kill The Messenger; the LAIKA animated The Boxtrolls, along with Black Sea, and climaxing with 50 Shades Of Grey. There is also the Pride & Prejudice prequel Longbourn and Peter Berg’s biopic of hockey player Derek Boogaard.
Its alternative distribution arm Focus World has the Baltasar Kormakur-directed The Deep, C.O.G., starring Jonathan Groff, based on the short story by David Sedaris; The Lifeguard with Kristen Bell; and We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks, the documentary on polarizing media pirate Julian Assange, a team-up between director Alex Gibney and Marc Shmuger.