EXCLUSIVE: After an all-nighter in the ring, The Weinstein Company closed a deal for U.S. distribution rights to Hands Of Stone, the Jonathan Jakubowicz-directed drama that stars Edgar Ramirez as iconic fighter Robert Duran, Robert De Niro as his mentor and trainer Ray Arcel, and Usher as his ring nemesis Sugar Ray Leonard. Ellen Barkin, Ruben Blades and Ana de Armas also star. The picture will likely open sometime next winter.
The important part of this deal is a theatrical commitment of around 2000 screens that will make this a precedent-setting release for a Latino film, with a strong P&A commitment and backend deals. At least two other distributors were in the mix for the picture but TWC, led by COO David Glasser, was the last standing at the final bell and closed with CAA. The deal makes sense, as TWC bought foreign on that picture a few months ago and now they’ll release it around the world.
Pic tells the rags-to-riches story of Duran, who is best remembered for his two ring matches with Leonard. The first, in 1980, was everything that the recent Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio PPV brawl was not, where two proud all-time greats stood toe to toe, with Duran emerging victorious to win the WBC welterweight title. And then came the rematch that November, where Duran shocked the world. He was being outclassed and pummeled by Leonard when he said “no mas,” and turned his back on Leonard and quit in the ring. Jakubowicz wrote the script, and the core of the story is the relationship between Duran and Arcel and how each man changed the other in boxing’s Golden Era, when Duran and Leonard battled among a group of brawlers that included Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Hector Camacho and Vinny Pazienza.
A film about Pazienza that stars Miles Teller and chronicles his comeback from a near fatal car crash is also one of the hot pictures here at Cannes, and this is looking like a deep year for boxing films. TWC has Jake Gyllenhaal starring in the Antoine Fuqua-directed Southpaw bowing July 24, and Fruitvale Station‘s Ryan Coogler has directed Creed, an MGM/Warner Bros Rocky spinoff that stars Michael B Jordan and Sylvester Stallone that has been dated for November 25.
The title Hands Of Stone came from Duran’s nickname, because the Panamanian hit so hard, with those heavy fists powering him to 103 victories in 119 fights. The “no mas” incident was a terrible ending to a rivalry that was everything depicted by De Niro and Martin Scorsese in Raging Bull, when Jake LaMotta had those classic brawls with Sugar Ray Robinson. This was back when boxing mattered, and well before it got eclipsed by mixed martial arts fighting, which is way more accessible to the public and more smartly run than is pro boxing — something not helped at all by the Mayweather-Pacquaio yawner. Duran, who blamed stomach cramps for ending that fight, recovered from the indignity to win several more titles before hanging up his gloves. The virile Ramirez, who got himself in rocking shape, is a strong match for Duran.
Hands Of Stone is produced by Jay Weisleder and Jakubowicz of La Piedra Films. The executive producers include Ben Silverman, Max Keller, George Edee and Roberto Duran’s son Robin Duran. Claudine Jakubowicz and Carlos Garcia de Paredes are producers.