UPDATE: Focus confirmed Deadline’s scoop. Formal press release is viewable under the original story.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal and Focus Features won a worldwide rights auction for an untitled film that Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and will direct, re-teaming him with There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis. Focus won the deal after a ferocious bidding battle with Fox Searchlight. The deal puts the lie to press reports speculating that buyer appetite has vanished going into Toronto.
I’m told that Focus will finance the film’s $35 million budget on a negative pickup deal, with a big back-end component for the talent. All told, the financial commitment that CAA brokered dwarfs two recent watermark worldwide rights deals at festivals: the $17.5 million commitment that Searchlight made for The Birth of A Nation at Sundance last January, and the $20 million that Focus paid for the Tom Ford-directed Nocturnal Animals at Cannes 2015.
The new PT Anderson picture is set in the fashion world in London in the 1950s, and the plan is to start production early next year and release it in late 2017.
This is another signature deal for Focus Features, which was reconstituted earlier this year by Universal’s Donna Langley as a prestige label with Peter Kujawski as chairman, Abhijay Prakash COO and Robert Walak president. Shortly after moved over from UPIP to take that slot, he led an effort to acquire the Jeff Nichols-directed drama Loving at the last Berlin market. That film premiered at Cannes to glowing reviews, with awards-caliber performances by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Just like in that deal, Focus is releasing the PTA pic domestic and Universal handles offshore. Focus launches Nocturnal Animals in Toronto, along with Loving and the Juan Antonio Bayona-directed A Monster Calls.
Day-Lewis won Oscars for There Will Be Blood, Lincoln and My Left Foot and Anderson got noms for Best Director and Best Screenplay, among a total of eight noms including Best Picture, so it is understandable that the picture would be released in the 2017 awards season. Anderson has a relationship with Langley that goes back to when she was an exec at New Line and Anderson made his breakthrough films Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Anderson is producing with his partner JoAnne Sellar at Ghoulardi Film Company, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, which took on PTA’s The Master after Universal bowed out several years ago and has backed his films since.
The deal gives Focus another big movie for a slate that includes two films from Working Title: the Stephen Frears-directed Victoria And Abdul with Judi Dench, and the Joe Wright-directed Churchill with Gary Oldman. Focus also starts production shortly on the Sofia Coppola-directed Beguiled, with Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst starring.
Focus Features has acquired worldwide rights to writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s untitled new film starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Focus will distribute the film in the U.S. with Universal Pictures handling international distribution. Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is producing the movie, with Mr. Anderson and JoAnne Sellar producing through his Ghoulardi Film Company. The film will begin production in January for release in 2017.
Continuing a creative collaboration following 2007’s There Will Be Blood, which earned Mr. Day-Lewis the Best Actor Academy Award, and the film nominations for Best Picture, Directing, and Screenplay, Mr. Anderson will once again explore a distinctive and surging milieu of the 20th century through the new movie – the couture world of 1950s London.
Mr. Day-Lewis has also won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performances in Lincoln and My Left Foot, while Mr. Anderson has also received Academy Award nominations for his screenplays of Inherent Vice, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights, all of which he directed. Ms. Ellison has received three Academy Award nominations for her work as producer of the Best Picture nominees American Hustle, Her, and Zero Dark Thirty; she was also producer alongside Mr. Anderson and Ms. Sellar on his film The Master, which was nominated for three Academy Awards.
Focus chairman Peter Kujawski commented, “Paul Thomas Anderson is a singular storyteller who has the ability to mesmerize audiences by creating complex and fascinating characters. It is our privilege to bring Daniel Day-Lewis’ reteaming with Paul to movie lovers who have long hoped for their reunion.”
Added Ms. Ellison, “Amongst their contemporaries, Paul and Daniel truly represent the highest tier of artistry in film. We are thrilled to partner with Peter and his entire team at Focus and collaborate once again with Paul on this ever original, visionary story. We cannot wait to see this lush world come to life with Daniel at the center.”
Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which packaged and arranged financing for the film, brokered the deal.