Two big festival films go head to head this weekend in limited release. Focus Features’ The Beguiled, which debuted last month in Cannes will open on both coasts via Focus Features. Sofia Coppola won Best Director in Cannes for the feature, which stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. The Big Sick by Michael Showalter and starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival in January where it sold to Amazon Studios for a reported eight figures. The company is teaming with Lionsgate for its theatrical release starting in New York and L.A. today.
The weekend has a number of other limited releases. Yash Raj Films will bow Tubelight, which will be the widest release for a Bollywood film in North America to date. And Paladin will spearhead theatrical for documentary Good Fortune, spotlighting John Paul DeJoria, an advocate of “conscious capitalism.”
Other limited releases this weekend include Neon’s The Bad Batch, Indican’s The Beginner’s Guide to Snuff, Vertical Entertainment’s Alien Arrival, Screen Media’s Ripped and Strand Releasing’s The Ornithologist.
Director-writer: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Thomas Culling (novel)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard
Distributor: Focus Features
Sofia Coppola told a press conference in Cannes that she hadn’t seen the 1971 big screen original feature The Beguiled, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood, ahead of pursuing her version. She said at the festival where the film premiered in May that she views her feature as the flip-side of the original, telling the story from the standpoint of the women.
The Beguiled unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school, where sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier. As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.
“I came on to [the project] pretty early,” said producer Youree Henley, who produced Coppola’s 2013 film The Bling Ring and was the line producer in her 2011 feature, Somewhere. “In 2015, we were doing a project for Mark Jacobs and had a conversation about this. She was also considering other projects, but this one kept coming back.”
Coppola began adapting the screenplay from the novel by Thomas Culling. She began circulating a draft of the screenplay in 2016. Universal owned the rights to the 1971 original, so the project was done in conjunction with Focus Features, which financed.
“We knew where our home for this film would be,” said Henley. “It was about working with Focus on this version. Over the course of doing this, there were changes at Focus and we were in the throws of that. You never know how your project will land in the food chain of things.”
Coppola reached out to Nicole Kidman as well as Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning who she had worked with on past films. Colin Farrell came on after what Henley said was an “extensive casting process.”
“We were originally supposed to make the film in August in New Orleans, but then we had to juggle schedules, which is always hard,” added Henley. “There was another movie Colin and Nicole were doing, so we couldn’t do it then, which turned out to be good. We pushed it to October which allowed us more prep time and also made it a more enjoyable experience in terms of weather. In August, we would have contended with heat and bugs. Had we shot in August, I think it would have been a different movie quite honestly.”
Despite a “very low budget,” according to Henley, the feature was made on film, which was important for Coppola. The Beguiled shot over 26 days. In Cannes, Coppola won Best Director for the feature which played a limited number of U.S. festivals including the Los Angeles Film Festival and Provincetown Film Festival ahead of its roll-out this weekend.
Focus will bow The Beguiled in four New York and L.A. locations including Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark on the West Coast as well as Angelika Film Center and AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York. Coppola will do post-screening Q&As in New York following the 7 pm showtime at AMC Lowes Lincoln Square and the 8:30 pm showtime at the Angelika today. The title will expand nationally Friday, June 30.
The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher
The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between the film’s writers, Kumail Nanjiani (who also stars) and Emily V. Gordon. The project’s roots began at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival when the pair met with Judd Apatow, one of the project’s producers, to talk about possible collaboration.
“Kaman and Emily wrote the script on speculation over a period of years with no possibilities of rewards in sight,” said Barry Mendel, who is also a producer of The Big Sick. “We immediately wanted to get involved. Michael Showalter emerged as an ideal candidate to direct. We all then worked on the script together for another year.”
The Big Sick tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one of his standup sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents. When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who he’s never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart.
The group began showing the script to financiers in October, 2015. FilmNation jumped on board and the project was ready to shoot in mid-2016. “We had always planned to have Kumail play himself,” said Mendel. “Holly Hunter and Ray Romano were our first choices for their parts. We knew Zoe’s work and saw she was going to ‘another level.’ Lena Dunham had done a pilot [with Zoe Kazan] that never went anywhere, but she said to Judd to give her a [good go]. She came in and it was an inspiring. Our jaws were on the floor. She’s incredible.”
The Big Sick shot over 25 days in New York, taking advantage of the state’s tax breaks. Exteriors were shot in Chicago where the story is set. “There wasn’t a lot of time, so not much improv,” said Mendel. “This movie has a lot of stories going, two sets of parents, illness story, comedy, etc. There are movies with less story that take 100 days.”
The Big Sick debuted at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where it had a rousing reception at its first screening at the Eccles. Deadline reported at the time Amazon Studios picked up the feature for $12M. Amazon Studios is partnering with Lionsgate on the theatrical release, opening the film in five theaters in New York and L.A. before adding more theaters in the coming weeks.
Director-writer: Kabir Khan
Writer: Parveez Sheikh
Cast: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, and Zhu Zhu
Distributor: Yash Raj Films USA
Yash Raj Films’ Tubelight will be the widest Bollywood opening ever in North America.
The family drama set in a small town in the hills of northern India, and tells the story of one man’s love for his family and his unshakeable belief in himself. After Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Kabir Khan and Salman Khan come together to tell another heartwarming story about the power of doing good.
The previous wide debut record holder for a Bollywood title on this continent was UTV drama, Dangal, which opened in 331 theaters just ahead of Christmas last year. It debuted solidly, grossing over $3.24M its first weekend ($9,814 average) and eventually cumed over $12.39M in North America. India’s Baahubali 2 opened in 425 theaters, but that was not a “Bollywood” film.
Tubelight will open day and date here with its bows in the U.K., India, Australia and other territories around the world. Advertising and marketing is focused on its core South Asian audience in North America. Tubelight will roll-out in 342 locations on this continent today.
Directors: Joshua Tickell, Rebecca Harrell Tickell
Writer: Johnny O’Hara
Subjects: John Paul DeJoria, Eloise DeJoria, Dan Aykroyd, Arianna Huffington, Robert Kennedy Jr., Cheech Marin, Michelle Phillips, Danny Trejo, Paul Watson, Ron White
Filmmakers Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell met John Paul DeJoria, the subject of their latest film Good Fortune, when he stood up at a screening of Joshua Tickell’s 2008 doc Fuel. “We premiered at Sundance,” recalled Joshua Tickell. “John Paul stood up in the back and said, ‘Everyone needs to see this film.’ He later became an executive producer to Fuel and we have worked with him on and off for a decade.”
Rebecca Harrell Tickell had the idea to do a film on DeJoria, also known as JP. A very successful entrepreneur, DeJoria’s brand of capitalism caught the filmmakers’ imaginations. “He’s an advocate of conscious capitalism,” said Harrell Tickell. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to highlight [this] model of [giving back].”
Good Fortune is the rags to riches tale of conscious capitalism pioneer John Paul DeJoria. Born with nothing, at times homeless on the streets of LA, JP spent his early adulthood in and out of motorcycle gangs only to wheel and deal his way to the top of a vast hair and tequila empire. A modern day Robin Hood, JP’s motto is “Success unshared is failure.” The son of immigrants, JP defies the stereotype of ‘the 1%’ and is the poster boy of the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.
The filmmaking duo approached DeJoria about the possible project at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. DeJoria said that others had approached him about doing a documentary, but he was sold by both Tickells’ approach emphasizing the “giving back” model.
“We were filming ongoing for two years,” said Joshua Tickell. “We’d get JP for a period of time and then we’d do a series of interviews with people connected to him. Little nuggets of his past would come up and we’d just chase them down.”
Some of those nuggets include such high-profile friends as Dan Aykroyd, Arianna Huffington, Robert Kennedy Jr and others who took part in the doc. DeJoria’s foundation put in some money for the project, but the bulk was raised through private investors. The Tickells had final cut, which was part of their agreement with DeJoria.
“He was surprisingly cool about the whole thing,” added Mr. Tickell. “We wanted to tell a story that’s true but also highlights something positive someone is doing for the world. There’s value in having positive role models and stories, especially seeing where we are now as a nation. We need to hear the good stories about good Americans doing good things. He’s human, not perfect, but he strives to make the world a better place and he does in fact do that.”
Lionsgate picked up digital rights to Good Fortune. The title will be available on-demand beginning August 1. The filmmakers tapped distributor Paladin for a limited theatrical release beginning today in New York followed by L.A. next week. It will head to Atlanta and Las Vegas the following week, with playdates set for other cities including Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco.