EXCLUSIVE: After another all night bare-knuckle bidding brawl, Open Road is closing a deal for Bleed For This, the Ben Younger-directed film that stars Miles Teller as world champion fighter Vinny Pazienza and Aaron Eckhart as the trainer who helped Pazienza come back to the ring after a near fatal car crash left him with a broken neck. The deal is for $4 million and the bidding started shortly after buyers were shown a 12-minute promo reel Friday night for a film that is now in post-production. There is no set release plan, but this comeback story has big time awards season and commercial potential. I don’t think Open Road had the highest bid, as there were several others by upstart companies, but the distributor seems a strong home for the film and certainly proved itself with last year’s Cannes acquisition Nightcrawler. Buyer interest was intense here, and I believe six bids came in, and four distributors went down to the wire, including Amazon Studios, the newcomer which made a strong play for the property, and willing to pay a premium and facilitate a theatrical release to get it. Ultimately, the dealmakers at CAA and WME Global, liked the fit with Open Road.
The Bleed For This script was written by Younger, best known for writing and directing Boiler Room and the Meryl Streep-starrer Prime. Teller is the fast rising young star of the prestige films Whiplash and The Spectacular Now, and he follows the Divergent franchise by starring in The Fantastic Four. Eckhart, who starred in Olympus Has Fallen and The Dark Knight, plays Kevin Rooney, the outspoken former trainer of Mike Tyson. Against the orders of his doctors — who told him he was lucky he wasn’t paraplegic and who drilled four screws into his skull to hold a halo healing device — Pazienza resumed training and made a triumphant ring return just over a year after his accident, to win a title. It is a real Rocky-like comeback tale. Katey Sagal plays the fighter’s mom in the film.
The film’s produced by American Beauty and Silver Linings Playbook’s Bruce Cohen, The Wolf Of Wall Street‘s Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Noah Kraft and Verdi Productions’ Chad A. Verdi. Martin Scorsese was the executive producer and that is a nice pedigree for an awards season film, having the Raging Bull helmer on the ticket. Magna Entertainment funded the film and its principal, Joshua Sason, is the exec producer.
Open Road, led by Tom Ortenberg and Peter Lawson, comes away from the festival with a substantial film for its release calendar. They came away smiling last year after acquiring in a similar fashion Nightcrawler, the Dan Gilroy-directed drama that starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. That film grossed $32 million domestic, making it a sleeper awards season hit that is exactly the result you hope for when you spend mid-seven figures on these festival films.
Where it fits in the release calendar is the question, because the year is crowded with boxing films. The first one out is the Gyllenhaal-starrer Southpaw that Antoine Fuqua directed and which The Weinstein Company will release July 24. Then there is Creed, the Rocky spinoff that Fruitvale Station‘s Ryan Coogler directed with Michael B. Jordan playing Apollo Creed’s grandson, and Sylvester Stallone reprises Rocky Balboa. That MGM/Warner Bros film will be released November 25 by Warner Bros. TWC started this festival with a deal for Hands Of Stone, the Roberto Duran film that stars Edgar Ramirez and Robert De Niro.
The Solution Entertainment Group is selling foreign on Bleed For This, with partners Lisa Wilson and Myles Nestel exec producing.