EXCLUSIVE Updated Sunday 11:31 AM: Focus Features has secured worldwide rights for Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford’s film followup to his debut A Single Man. The company confirmed Deadline’s scoop this morning. The deal was driven by Focus Features, with Universal backing up Peter Schlessel’s label and handling the film overseas. The total deal is worth $20 million, I hear, with an 8-figure P&A commitment. That makes this by far the big deal of the festival, and one of the biggest in recent years. CAA and FilmNation’s Glen Basner handled negotiations on the film.
Ford wrote the script, an adaptation of the 1993 Austin Wright book Tony And Susan. The film will star Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal and Ford is producing. The logline: out of the blue, Susan Morrow receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband’s first novel. As she reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings. As his ordinary life is violently set off course, Susan is forced to confront her own past. The title comes from one of the stories in the book.
Buyers were moved by Ford’s presentation at the Carlton Hotel days ago, and they have been making offers. Ford was initially reticent, because he wants creative control throughout production and to have a strong say in how the movie is released and marketed. He had the wherewithal to self-finance the film, but seemed to have a change of heart as the offers kept pouring in. Remarkably and maybe mercifully, this one didn’t require an all night bargaining session. It has been percolating since yesterday, when Ford became open to a worldwide deal.
Having all rights handled by one place simplifies things, and Schlessel’s team certainly distinguished itself in its handling of The Theory Of Everything, the Best Picture nominee which won Eddie Redmayne the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, and a nomination for Felicity Jones for her portrayal of Jane Hawking. The film garnered a total of five Oscar nominations and grossed $120 million worldwide.
“Tom’s vision for his film is unique and inspiring and something that global audiences will be thrilled by,” Schlessel said in confirming the deal. “Tom has proven his prowess as a filmmaker and this romantic tale of revenge and regret will be a fantastic addition to our slate”
Focus president of acquisitions Lia Buman and EVP business affairs Beth Lemberger negotiated on behalf of the studio. Peter Kujawski, managing director of Universal Pictures International Productions, was also instrumental in the agreement.