Here’s one of the most coveted grabs out of Toronto: Viacom’s Paramount Pictures will distribute Academy Award-nominee Stephen Frear’s Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. The film is a Pathe and BBC Films presentation with the participation of Canal Plus and Cine Plus of a Qwerty Films Production. Paramount will distribute the film in the U.S., and Pathe will release the film in the U.K. and France. This was one of the films that Deadline identified as the hottest Toronto titles, despite it not being in the festival. It screened privately Friday morning at 9 AM. With a lack of must-see fest titles here because so many were pre-bought, this likely won’t be the last film to make a major deal. Others include the Sean Penn-directed The Last Face with Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron, the Richard Gere-starrer Oppenheimer Strategies, the Ewan McGregor-starrer Our Kind of Traitor, the Michael Apted-directed Unlocked with Noomi Rapace, and Hush, a genre title that had a rousing private screening last night.
The film is the true story of Foster Jenkins (Streep), a New York heiress and socialite who pursued her dream of becoming a great opera singer. The voice she heard in her head was beautiful, but to everyone else it was hilariously awful. Her “husband” and manager, St. Clair Bayfield (Grant), an aristocratic English actor, was determined to protect his beloved Florence from the truth. But when Florence decided to give a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944, St. Clair faced his greatest challenge.
Florence Foster Jenkins is directed by Frears from a screenplay by Nicholas Martin. The film also stars Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation) and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris). The film is produced by Michael Kuhn for Qwerty Films and by Tracey Seaward and executive produced by Pathe’s Cameron McCracken, BBC Films’ Christine Langan and Qwerty’s Malcolm Ritchie.
Muriel Sauzay, Head of International Sales and Cameron McCracken, MD of Pathe U.K. negotiated the deal on behalf of Pathe. The studio’s negotiating team was lead by Paramount’s SVP of Acquisition and Production Eben Davidson and David Miercort, SVP of Business Affairs.
Paramount has been opportunistic to fill slots in its release schedule, and last year made the biggest festival buy with the Chris Rock-directed Top Five. From what I hear, the studio might not be done here.