EXCLUSIVE: As the AFM kicks off, and Fortitude International nears its 2nd birthday, the company has built a slate of elevated genre, thrillers and comedies with the latest addition, Android, a space-set sci-fier that will star Olga Kurylenko. Keeping Mum’s Niall Johnson is directing from a script he co-wrote with Matt O’Reilly that taps into the current A.I. zeitgeist. Trademark Films’ Ivan Mactaggart is producing with Infinite Studios Singapore’s Mike Wiluan and Lindsey Martin and Magnet Management’s Jennie Frankel Frisbie.
Shooting starts in February on the story that takes place on a lonely spaceship orbiting Neptune where Mason Anders realizes his dream to rebuild his dead wife, Beth (Kurylenko), and their son, as androids. But when the androids begin demanding a life of their own, Mason’s is suddenly in danger. A battle of wits and strength ensues as Mason is faced with potentially making the ultimate sacrifice of destroying his family to save humanity.
Fortitude co-founder Nadine de Barros says the script is a page-turner that will “mesmerize audiences in space while exploring universal themes of family and the need for basic human connections.” Producers currently hold North American rights.
Fortitude also has Keanu Reeves-starrer Daughter Of God making its market debut. The thriller is produced by frequent Fortitude collaborator Cassian Elwes. The company is also in pre-production on Backstabbing For Beginners with Ben Kingsley and Josh Hutcherson; Tom’s Dad with Will Ferrell; and Drunk Parents with Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek. Other key titles include Uma Thurman comedy The Brits Are Coming, Jennifer Garner suspense drama Tribes Of Palos Verdes and mystery Eleven Missing Days about the disappearance of Agatha Christie.
It’s been just a little under two years since respected sales exec de Barros, financier Daniel Wagner and producer Robert Ogden Barnum launched Fortitude and the slate continues to grow — but at the partners’ own pace.
The company currently has about 15 projects in various stages of development and production and is also branching out into television. However, de Barros says, “It’s a slow build… We want to keep overhead small so we can afford to say no to projects we don’t like and yes to projects we like.” There was an explosion of new sales companies a few years ago and some ended up casualties of the market. De Barros says Fortitude’s goal is “not to be fancy, not be a vanity shop. We are super hands-on. We want to be in the business for a very long time. The slow-build model is the responsible move in today’s environment.”
If Fortitude’s Year One was about establishing the business — the first two releases came earlier this year with the critically lauded The End Of The Tour and political thriller The Runner with Nicolas Cage — then Year Two has been about “going into our own productions,” de Barros says. The first one on the list is Rupert Friend’s feature helming and scripting debut, Barton & Charlie in which he stars with Emily Blunt. De Barros and Barnum are exec producing.
Fortitude prefers to put projects together themselves. Says de Barros, “The only way to get movies off the ground now is to get involved at an early stage, otherwise you’re fighting because the competition is so aggressive on already packaged projects that people come in to finance with numbers that are excessive for what the value is. We prefer to control product from day one.”
Of the recent box office woes of some prestige pictures, de Barros says, “It shows you how important it is to make a great movie. It all comes to script in today’s age.”
But finding those has gotten harder. “We have more financing than we do movies,” says de Barros who allows that an even tougher issue is casting. “The biggest challenges are that it takes a long time to get movies to the final stage of packaging.” The culprit? “Everyone blames TV.” One actor, she says, who is “not the biggest name in the world,” had 12 offers the same week she sought him out.
Reflecting those difficulties, buzz headed into Santa Monica is that product is lacking and business will not be as robust as hoped. How does de Barros see this week shaping up? “I think AFM is very important in terms of screening and face time. I don’t believe in the market system in terms of sales. I sold just as much in the summer. I sold a movie in August to Italy!.. Movies don’t come together for arbitrary market dates. I’m not looking for movies for AFM or Berlin, I’m looking for movies and will sell them the minute they’re ready to go.”
Kurylenko is repped by Tavistock Wood Management and CAA. Johnson is repped by Independent Talent Group and Magnet Management.