EXCLUSIVE: Martin Scorsese’s mob picture The Irishman has landed at STX Entertainment in a huge deal for international rights that could be a recent record for Cannes. We’re hearing the buy could be worth as much as $50 million. It was struck very late Saturday night L.A. time after lengthy negotiations that went through the night and comes after Fabrica de Cine closed a deal with Paramount at week’s end to finance the film. That’s similar to the structure set last year at Cannes for Scorsese’s Silence — to the tune of some $100 million. Paramount will retain domestic on the picture, which hopes to reunite Scorsese with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, as well as to team Al Pacino with Scorsese for the first time in their storied careers.
This is by far the biggest deal of this Cannes and the project the marketplace has been waiting for. In the run-up to the festival, all the talk had been of how this was going to be Amazon’s year, with the major disrupter’s five titles, including fest opener Cafe Society. Now, with this and the Molly’s Game deal, which Deadline also broke, one can argue Cannes 2016 reps STX’s coming of age as a genuine global player.
“We could not be more excited or privileged to have secured the international rights to this incredible motion picture,” said STX international president David Kosse. “Fabrica de Cine’s vision and support in putting together this film is incredible. Martin Scorsese is one of the world’s most accomplished filmmakers and The Irishman is precisely the kind of premiere tentpole programming that will help distinguish STX as we continue to build our studio and especially our infrastructure overseas.”
The bidding war in the days running up to and during Cannes sawalmost everyone kicking the tires. The final bids came down to Universal, Fox and STX going toe-to-toe with Lionsgate along with Stuart Ford’s IM Global and Alex Walton’s Bloom also in the mix. This is not only a major get for STX but will energize what has been a modest sales market to date.
The ambitious new studio now has a major tentpole film to feed through its output deals and also a major title to self-distribute in the UK once Kosse, a highly respected veteran, launches its new distribution outfit. STX announced the opening of its international division earlier this year with Kosse at its helm. STX Motion Picture Group chairman Adam Fogelson and Kosse had previously worked together at Universal. They hired Shyama Friedenson, who had worked in international marketing at Paramount, StudioCanal and Lionsgate. So they’re well-equipped to launch The Irishman.
“We value STX’s passion and belief in this project,” said Fabrica chairman and chief executive Gaston Pavlovich. “Seeing the dynamism of their team, the experience of their senior executives, and their shared vision for creating powerful content, we decided to entrust STX Entertainment with The Irishman as the best possible partner to handle the international distribution for this project. They are passionate about film and were excited to be such an important part of creating this long-awaited collaboration between the legendary actors and director, which will be a milestone in film history. The Irishman is an event on a global scale, and Adam and David are innovative and entrepreneurs with one of the best executive teams working in the business today.”
While at Universal, Kosse oversaw international efforts on Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which pulled in $275.1M internationally, marking the biggest opening ever for Scorsese and company abroad.
A number of companies have long-standing relationships with Scorsese. Universal has produced other Scorsese films over the years (and years ago), including Casino, Cape Fear and The Last Temptation of Christ. IM Global sold Silence while Fox was the studio behind Scorsese’s 1982 (very) black comedy The King of Comedy. In the end, STX won the day. The Irishman, a big-budget ($100M) period drama, will now move full-steam ahead with Paramount — the studio that produced The Godfather — distributing domestically and STX selling and distributing abroad.
The architect of the deal is Mexican financier-producer Fabrica de Cine, led by chairman and chief exec Gaston Pavlovich. Fabrica first approached Paramount in February about taking the long-gestating project out of turnaround and financing. Their approach was met with some initial skepticism by the marketplace, dubious over the film’s price tag. One early positive respondent was Alex Walton and his partner Ken Kao at Bloom. Sources close to the deal tell Deadline that they stepped up almost immediately to tell Fabrica execs they would support them with the project. At one point, the minimum guarantee Bloom was offering was higher than that of some of the studio bids. That gave Fabrica execs the confidence to pursue the deal.
Buoyed by their experience working with Scorsese on Silence, another long-gestating project, Fabrica continued to chip away at Paramount until a deal was eventually struck. By that time, all the early doubters had become believers clamoring to do a deal with Fabrica for the type of event film rarely available on the indie market.
“This is a cinematic event that is likely never going to be repeated,” a Fabrica exec told Deadline. “It’s Scorsese back with De Niro. It’s Scorsese with Pacino for the first time. We strongly believe in the filmmakers’ ability. The decision about who to go with really has come down to who shared our vision for the film and really believed in it.”
It has been a complex decision for Fabrica execs, who have had to decide between studio model and legacy profile offered by the likes of Fox and Universal, the promise of an ambitious aspiring studio like STX, a mini-major like Lionsgate or playing the indie sales market through an IM Global or Bloom.
The Irishman was adapted for the screen by one of the best screenwriters working today — Steve Zaillian — from the Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses, which is the deathbed story from mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran about the disappearance and death of the former Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Zaillian scripted Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and his credits range from Schindler’s List to Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. He’s been nominated for four Oscars (including Gangs) and won for Schindler’s List.
The film is a marketer’s dream with all the biggest names from the most iconic mob movies of all time. If the deal should close with Pacino, it will be the first time he and De Niro have shared the screen since Righteous Kill in 2008 and before that it was Michael Mann’s 1995 film Heat and (of course) The Godfather, Part II in 1974.
STX Entertainment is led by Robert Simonds and was co-founded by TPG Growth, a leading global private investment firm with $65 billion of capital under management. In addition to backing from TPG Capital, additional investors include financial partner Hony Capital, a leading private equity firm in China; and business interests of Gigi Pritzker and Beau Wrigley. STX also sealed a deal with China’s largest privately held film firm, Huayi Brothers Media Corp, in a three-year pact that begins in 2016. They will be partners on the 12-to-15 picture annual slate.