EXCLUSIVE: As the Cannes Film Festival announces the winners of the fest’s competing films, the big winner in the market portion of the festival is Harvey Weinstein, hands down. Weinstein has just closed two more acquisition deals, leaving Cannes with six films under his arm, and another two for his multi-platform arm Radius-TWC. The Weinstein Company has completed a deal for U.S. distribution rights to Carol, a film that shoots in the fall, directed by Far From Heaven helmer Todd Haynes for HanWay Films. TWC has also just completed the acquisition of U.S. rights to The Young And Prodigious Spivet, the 3D film that reunites Weinstein with Amelie helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska and is based on a Patricia Highsmith novella adapted by Phillis Nagy. It tells the dual stories of two women: a twenty-something woman working in a department store hoping for a better life; and a wife trapped in a loveless marriage, afraid for her daughter if she bolts. Helena Bonham Carter heads the cast of Jeunet’s 3D film, about a 12-year-old cartographer who secretly leaves his family’s ranch in Montana where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother, to travel across the country on board a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute. CAA brokered the latter deal.
While the pace of buying at the fest by U.S. distributors seemed lackluster most of the way through, Weinstein and his team seemed to be everywhere. Among other things, he: led a party of filmmakers that included Costa Gavras and The Artist helmer Michel Hazanavicius to crash an economic forum at the Palais to argue that art be excluded from the upcoming talks between the U.S. and European Union; he was at AMFAR, auctioning off a seat next to Leonardo DiCaprio on Richard Branson’s space vessel; he took part in a panel on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2; and he unveiled clips from TWC’s 2013 slate to a packed house. TWC also had its Sundance prize-winning acquisition Fruitvale Station playing in Director’s Fortnight.
His acquisition team, led by TWC COO David Glasser, and Radius-TWC co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego were gobbling up titles like crazy. Besides the two I just mentioned: based on seven minutes of footage, Weinstein and Glasser bought the Judi Dench-Steve Coogan-starrer Philomena, which will be released in Oscar season; they nabbed the Brian Kirk-directed Passengers with Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon; took U.S. on the Michelle Williams-starrer Suite Francaise; and teamed with Relativity to acquire U.S. rights for the Gavin O’Connor-directed Western Jane Got A Gun, based on some sample scenes, with Relativity releasing and TWC proving P&A and handling marketing.
As for Radius-TWC, Quinn and Janego made the first American acquisition of a festival film by buying Blue Ruin, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes; acquired Man Of Tai Chi, which marks the directorial debut of Keanu Reeves; Quinn and Janego also watched as their upcoming film, the Nicolas Winding Refn-drama Only God Forgives with Ryan Gosling, open to polarizing reaction and boos. Now, anybody who knows anything about the plot of this film knows that a controversial reception is inevitable. I wonder if all those reporters breathlessly informing about the caustic reception and the booing realized this this kind of controversy is about the best thing ever for a movie that is going to be released day and date in a multi-platform strategy. Refn has been saying outrageous things in response to the booing and the film probably comes out of Cannes with better advance buzz than if it had quietly gotten a polite reception.
Now, we won’t know for awhile if these deals will pay off; TWC has so many films launching this year that many of these pictures will wait till 2014. But Weinstein made a point at his slate presentation to say that he felt that after a slump several years ago, he felt he has gotten his company back to where it was in the strongest years at Miramax. Based on the deal volume, who can argue?