EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features has set the high bar in advance of the Cannes Film Festival. I’m told that Focus has wrapped up a near eight-figure deal for North American rights to The Coldest City, a film that will shoot in October in Germany. Charlize Theron will star and the John Wick helmers David Leitch & Chad Stahelski will direct a Kurt Johnstad script that is an elevated spy thriller based on the bestselling Oni Press graphic novel by Antony Johnston. Sierra/Affinity’s Nick Meyer is backing the film and its $30 million + budget, and Meyer will be selling what will be one of the hot projects to offshore buyers next week.
Focus has committed to a wide release, and this is the third ambitious project with which the Universal-based distributor has aligned. Focus also just committed to the Natalie Portman as Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic On The Basis Of Sex that Marielle Heller will direct, and acquired Paul Tremblay’s elevated genre novel A Head Full Of Ghosts, all in the last few days.
WME reps Theron, Leitch, Stahelski, and Johnstad and WME Global put this together and brokered the domestic deal in advance of Cannes. This is a good sign for the upcoming market, reminiscent of last year when the biggest deal was made just before the festival started, as Paramount paid $20 million for North American rights to the Denis Villenueve-directed sci-fi film Story Of Your Life. That set the tone for brisk dealmaking for pre-packaged pictures the entire last Cannes and there is expected to be an appetite for more at this festival.
In The Coldest City, Theron (who’ll come into the film after the summer spectacle Mad Max: Fury Road), plays a super spy who springs into action after an underground MI6 officer is killed just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She must find a list he was smuggling into the West to protect herself and the counter intelligence community. It becomes a game of double-crossing as agents play out global agendas. Theron, Beth Kono and AJ Dix of Denver and Delilah Productions will produce with Eric Gitter and Peter Schwerin of Closed on Mondays Entertainment and Kelly McCormick of Sierra/Affinity. 87Eleve is also a producer and Sierra/Affinity’s Meyer and Marc Schaberg will executive produce along with David Guillod of Primary Wave Entertainment.
Leitch and Stahelski are separately developing another John Wick installment and did the second unit directing work on the upcoming Jurassic World and Captain America: Civil War, as well as Wolverine, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and installments of the Hunger Games and Expendables franchises. Johnstad, best known for the 300 franchise and Act of Valor, is scripting Aquaman.