The upcoming weekend boasts an onslaught of new Specialty titles vying for audiences. In all likelihood, however, many will have a short big screen life as the fall’s awards contenders ramp up and crowd others out. Five of this week’s dozen-plus newcomers are spotlighted here with Fox Searchlight’s The Drop edging on a wide release. The feature starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini will bow in over 800 theaters. TWC’s The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby also joins the fray with a platform release. The film also has two accompanying titles told from the perspective of its two main characters, which will be released in more limited runs in October. Magnolia will open its thriller Honeymoon in a day and date release while Dada Films’ Swearnet: The Movie breaks a movie record with the most F-bombs ever. And Cohen Media Group’s My Old Lady bowed Wednesday in limited release. Other Specialty films opening this weekend include IFC’s Bird People, The Film Collaborative’s Born To Fly: Elizabeth Strep Vs. Gravity, Music Box’s The Green Prince, International Film Circuit’s I Am Eleven, Strand’s The Mystery Of Happiness, Well Go USA’s The Pirates, Roadside Attraction’s The Skeleton Twins and Abramorama’s Take Me To The River in addition to two from First Run: Sagrada: The Mystery Of Creation and Smiling Through The Apocalypse.
Michaël R. Roskam
Writer: Dennis Lehane
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Michael Aronov, Morgan Spector, Micahel Esper
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
The short story that would become the screen version of The Drop was optioned by Chernin Entertainment around the time Jenno Topping arrived as an EVP. The entertainment production company was founded by former Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman and CEO Peter Chernin. Since then she has been upped to president of films and over the period of two to three years worked to package together the project’s director and talent with producer Mike Larocca. The crime drama follows Bob Sainowski who finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry. The subsequent investigation goes deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families and adversaries work together to make a living at all cost. “[The Drop] was originally at Fox 2000, but then Fox Searchlight came on board,” said Topping. “There were many directors interested including Michaël [Roskam]. We loved his [2011 feature] Bullhead and he seemed to have insight into this world.” Searchlight wholly financed the project which had its first casting coup when Tom Hardy came on board. “He has an incredible way to project strength but in a ‘gentle giant’ demeanor,” said Topping. “James Gandolfini was also a natural fit. We loved that he gave the [feature] a certain authenticity.”
After working a bit around Hardy’s schedule, the rest of the cast fell into place. The Drop shot in various locations around Brooklyn in the winter and early spring 2013 over 34 days. “It was freezing,” added Topping. “But it was incredibly smooth. It was my second film shoot in NYC. When you’re with James Gandolfini, you get a special ‘golden pass.’ All doors open.” Searchlight had a box office hit with Enough Said, which starred Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as well as Catherine Keener and Toni Collette. The film opened three months after he passed away, eventually grossing over $17.5 million domestically. The Drop is debuting at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and Searchlight is opening it fairly wide this weekend in 805 theaters across North America. Searchlight said it will bow in a “mix of some of the best Art houses in the country, along with a number of very good mainstream multiplexes.”
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘The Drop’
The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them
Director-writer: Ned Benson
Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Jess Weixler
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Told with three perspectives The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby is the story of a young couple living in New York. Connor spends his days working in a restaurant while his wife Eleanor returns to college. Over the course of their daily lives they experience a life-changing event that challenges their marriage. The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby is actually the “collective title” of three films. This Friday’s release is “Them,” which gives a broader view of their relationship. Writer-director Ned Benson also created two other features “Him” and “Her,” which are told from the perspective of the husband and wife respectively. TWC will release those films separately in select art house venues in October in limited release. Her and Him will go in exclusive runs in the top 10 markets only,” said TWC’s president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis. “[TWC] bought Her and Him last year in Toronto and Ned [Benson] completed Them in conjunction with his vision.” The company picked up the Rigbys for a reported $3 million.
Speaking about this weekend’s release, Lomis said he expects the title to play to art house and “upscale” audiences and women in particular. “It will play in big cities but I hope it crosses over,” added Lomis. “[The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them] screened in Cannes in May and we took the summer to prep for its [release],” said Lomis. “We hope the Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assoc. take notice as well.” The feature will open in 4 theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend and will expand to the top 50 markets in about 170 locations soon afterward.
Director-writer: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Phil Graziadei
Cast: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Producers Patrick Baker and Esmé Howard knew writer-director Leigh Janiak when she worked as Baker’s assistant at Misher Films After leaving the company Janiak and co-writer Phil Graziadei sent a script for Honeymoon to Baker and Howard. The thriller centers on a newlywed couple whose honeymoon in the countryside falls into chaos after Paul finds his spouse Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night away. “[I received the script] which was creepy, unnerving, and character-based and without the typical bells and whistles that render so many genre films to the realm of cliché,” said Baker. “Immediately, I brought on my wife, Esmé Howard, who is a writer and my producing partner in my company, Fewlas Entertainment. Then I called Leigh the next day and said, ‘I guess it’s my turn to go work for you.'” The team did not hire a casting agent since the story called for only a few characters. Being fans of Game Of Thrones, the producers gave the script to Rose Leslie’s agent Christopher Farrar at Hamilton Hodell in London. She accepted a week later. ICM’s Andy Coleman suggested Harry Treadaway for the role of Paul and the filmmaking team took him on after viewing his work and audition tape.
Financing was less seamless. “My brother Matthew Baker who works at Hanway Films in London introduced us to some UK-based companies and they really liked the script and Leigh’s look-book and teaser,” said Baker. “With two up-and-coming British actors, we thought we had a good chance of sourcing money out of the UK. Already en route to London to meet Rose in person, we took meetings with several companies, but hit a brick wall every-time. Back in LA and after further meetings with various sales companies, a VFX company, and a few film financiers, but we still couldn’t find the right fit.” After those scenarios fell through, Baker and Howard approached a “group of high-net worth individual investors” and some came through. The shoot took place over 24 days near Flat Rock, NC in May 2013. One hurdle threatened to stop production. Rose Leslie’s visa had been denied a week before the shoot. “We called ICM agent, Esther Newberg, who within hours helped connect us to a number of ‘higher-ups’ and after a subsequent nudge from no less than the office of the Department of Homeland Security, Rose’s visa was approved with minutes to spare,” said Baker. The film debuted at SXSW and offers came in following their first midnight screening. Magnolia took rights to the feature which will open day and date Friday. Theatrically it will open in New York at Cinema Village and Sundance Sunset Cinemas in West Hollywood. It will add several additional markets throughout the month.
My Old Lady
Director-writer: Israel Horovitz
Cast: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Michael Burstin, Elie Wajeman, Michael Burstin, Sophie Touitou, Dominique Pinon
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Screening as a world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival in its Special Presentations section Cohen Media Group is wasting no time in getting My Old Lady out to the paying public. The typical trajectory for TIFF debuts with distribution in the U.S. is to hit one of a handful of festivals stateside such as New York Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, Woodstock, AFI Fest, Denver and/or Mill Valley especially when a title boasts some stars, but My Old Lady is ditching that path. “When we study films that we release we look at what we think is the best slot,” said Cohen Media Group’s Charles Cohen. “We think it’s an excellent time frame away from the big fall tent poles and before the New York Film Festival.” The drama follows an American who unexpectedly inherits an apartment in Paris. But when he heads to the city of lights to check out his new pied-à-terre he finds it has an unexpected resident. “This is an important wonderful film. Of all the films it will be the widest release for our company to date,” said Cohen. “We’re marketing it to Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith fans.” Kline has made appearances on Today and Live With Kelly and Michael. The New York Times also did a feature on the film last Sunday which Cohen said has been in “the planning stages for six months.”
“They’ve done a lot of press in Toronto and we thought it would be a great festival for the launch,” said Cohen. “We feel it will resonate with audiences. It was a successful play in Europe and Kevin Kline has not had a performance with such depth in a long time.” While the film will bow in U.S. theaters it will head to the 58th BFI London Film Festival as well as to the Zurich Film Festival which opens later this month. Cohen Media Group opens My Old Lady Thursday in six theaters in New York and LA. It will add another five markets next week eventually heading to 25 markets and around 175 runs.
Swearnet: The Movie
Director: Warren P. Sonoda
Writers: Mike Smith, Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay
Cast: Mike Smith, Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay, Patrick Roach, Tom Green, Scott “Carrot Top” Thompson, Mishael Morgan, Sarah Jurgens
Distributor: Dada Films
Canadian filmmaker Warren P. Sonoda (half) joked that there are “not many comedy directors in Canada,” which perhaps accounted for his quick hire to direct Swearnet. Starring the group from the popular Canadian mockumentary television series Trailer Park Boys, the feature exists in a parallel existence in which the stars of the series are fed up with being censored in their post-Trailer Park Boys period. Now out of work, the ‘swearists,’ Mike Smith, Robb Wells and John Paul Tremblay take matters into their own hands and start up their own uncensored network on the internet. “I met with [the team] in Halifax,” recalled Sonoda about the start of his involvement on the project. “I got a call on a Friday, got the script on a Tuesday and I got the job on Wednesday. I came in as a director and fan of their [television] series.” Swearnet began shooting in early fall 2012 and finished in early 2013, shooting in Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario as well as Halifax. eOne, which has rights to the feature in Canada, held off on releasing Swearnet because other Trailer Park Boys movies were still in the pipeline including Trailer Park Boys: Don’t Legalize It which it opened in Canada last April. The 2006 original, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, also based on the comedy series, grossed over $3.86 million in North America. “They wanted a director who wouldn’t want to come in and change everything,” said Sonoda. “I pride myself in being a collaborator.”
Swearnet is the current record-holder of the F-bomb in any film. “Fuck” is used 935 times throughout the 112-minute feature working out to over 8.3 f-words per minute. Sonoda said that he believed the previous F-bomb record holder was Wolf Of Wall Street, adding, “It’s the only time my name will outdo Scorsese on anything. The Trailer Park Boys take swearing to an art-form.” Sonoda said that they were not concerned about ratings when making Swearnet. “Anyone who likes broad outrageous comedy like Jackass, then this is the [movie] for them.” The feature opened August 29 in 90 Canadian theaters, grossing $134,909 ($1,499 PTA) in its first full week according to Canadian website Playbackonline.ca. Dada will open Swearnet: The Movie in three locations in New York and L.A.