EXCLUSIVE: Here is an exclusive first peek at footage for Hostiles, the Scott Cooper-directed Western acquisition title that became the talk of Telluride for the quality of the picture and the strong performance by Christian Bale as well as Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi. The film played Telluride instead of Venice because the former made it part of a special Bale tribute, and perhaps no movie up for grabs captured the fancy of critics/journalists there more than this film. The big question: which distributor will step up, acquire the film and launch it in awards season?
Bale stars as an Army captain who in 1892 is assigned to transport an old Indian enemy (Studi) back to his tribal home. Along the way he picks up Pike, who has lost her entire family to a vicious Indian attack. There is hardness and hatred that has gotten the picture compared to the classic 1956 John Ford film The Searchers, which starred John Wayne.
The film can’t afford to wait until 2018, not when so many are raving about the quality of Cooper’s work and particularly a performance by Bale that has him being shortlisted alongside Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and the yet to be seen Denzel Washington in the Dan Gilroy-directed Roman J Israel, Esq that was just added to Toronto, and the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed fashion industry film reputed to be the swan song of Daniel Day-Lewis. The film was pre-screened for buyers, so they all have ruminated over releasing the dark Western, but those who waited to see audience response can only be buoyed by the reaction so far.
Entering Toronto without a distributor has always been tricky, but it has worked in the past with actor performance-driven films like The Wrestler. It requires a distributor which isn’t already loaded with horses in the Oscar race, because awards campaigns are so time intensive. Who knows if it happens, but a logical landing place might be Annapurna. The first feature that launched the company as distributor and marketer of its films was last month’s Detroit, which landed with a thud and not nearly the needed impact to feel like a factor. Also, Megan Ellison’s company is a producer of the PTA film but its distribution and Oscar fortunes will be handled by Focus Features. Annapurna is separately backing the Adam McKay-directed film which stars Bale as former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, for release in 2018. It makes all kinds of sense, seeing a company which just launched its marketing/distribution arm flex its muscles with a $50 million big-scale film with an Oscar shot. Other potential suitors are rumored to include Netflix (which has in awards season the Dee Rees-directed Sundance acquisition Mudbound and the Angelina Jolie-directed First They Killed My Father) and Fox Searchlight, whose Oscar season slate includes The Shape Of Water, the Guillermo del Toro-directed film that also drew raves in Telluride and Venice before arriving in Toronto. Hostiles premieres in Toronto on Monday night, September 11.
Regardless of which distributor rises to the occasion, it seems likely that Cooper and Bale (who won Best Supporting Oscar for The Fighter) will get a better hearing than on their collaboration in Out Of The Furnace, which was released by Relativity in 2013. That film, with such strong performances by Bale and Zoe Saldana, not to mention Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson, deserved much better than it got.
Editor’s note: The clip is no longer available.