Here’s the official release from Focus Features confirming Deadline’s morning scoop:
TORONTO, September 7th, 2013 – Worldwide rights to the comedy Bad Words, directed by and starring Jason Bateman, have been acquired by Focus Features for a 2014 theatrical release. Focus CEO James Schamus and co-CEO Andrew Karpen made the announcement today at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie is having its world premiere.
Bad Words, a Darko Entertainment/Aggregate Films/MXN production, was represented at Toronto by Creative Artists Agency and Hicks Professional Law Corporation, which made the deal with Focus at the Festival. The movie is the feature directorial debut of Mr. Bateman, who last starred in the blockbuster comedy Identity Thief and is currently an Emmy Award nominee for Arrested Development. Mr. Bateman is also a producer of the new movie through his company Aggregate, with Academy Award nominee Mason Novick (Juno) of MXN and Darko’s Sean McKittrick and Jeff Culotta. Andrew Dodge wrote the original screenplay; it is his first to be produced, and it was selected for “The Black List” in 2011.
In the movie, Mr. Bateman portrays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old man seeking catharsis in his life. He seizes the ideal that this will come for him through…the National Spelling Bee; after discovering a loophole in the rules, Guy zealously joins the competition and easily outpaces the pre-teen field in match after match. As reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn of Afternoon Delight) delves into Guy’s story, Guy finds himself forging an unlikely friendship with a competitor, awkward 10-year-old Chaitanya (Rohan Chand of Homeland), which may spell things differently for his future. Bad Words also stars Screen Actors Guild Award winner Allison Janney, Ben Falcone (Bridesmaids), Rachael Harris (The Hangover), and Philip Baker Hall (Argo).
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 8:48 AM: Focus Features is making a big acquisition of Bad Words, paying in the vicinity of $7 million for world rights, I’m told. It marks the first big money deal at Toronto. The film marks the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, who stars as a man who discovers a loophole in the rules of the National Spelling Bee. He dominates the pre-pubescent competition with keen spelling skills and and a propensity for trash talking. He forms an unlikely friendship with an awkward boy of Indian descent, and all the while a reporter trails him trying to find his real motivation for disrupting the spelling bee world.
Bateman stars with Allison Janney, Phillip Baker Hall, Kathryn Hahn and Rohan Chand. The film got a rousing response at its premiere screening last night at the Ryerson, and buyers were all over it with CAA, which brokered the deal. This was an all-nighter but Focus has prevailed. I understand the plan it to release next year with an aggressive targeted release strategy. Bateman has been a stalwart star of comedies, and he already has branched into producing. But this film puts him on the map as a filmmaker to watch. Pic was produced by Darko, Aggregate and MXN.