Will the dreadful summer put a chill on acquisitions at the Toronto Film Festival getting underway today? I’d be surprised. This despite several buyers telling me they will be cautious, and that they only see a handful of highly desirable titles and that this Toronto will primarily be for distributors to launch titles in Oscar season. A look at the inventory not only of the festival slate but a slew of scripts, packages and promo reels should lead to enough commerce to make Toronto a strong sales market.
In the weeks leading up to Toronto, Sony Pictures Classics picked up the Paul McGuigan-directed buzz title Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool so Michael Barker and Tom Bernard could come out swinging with a campaign for Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame. There was a mad flurry around I, Tonya, the drama that stars Margot Robbie as disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, with CBS Films allegedly putting up a blind bid around the $6 million Miramax paid to acquire the movie. Before other buyers could bid up that price, the sellers shut it down and decided no dealing until the movie premieres Friday night. The decisionmaker on this is Miramax’s Bill Block, with UTA and CAA co-repping domestic. The expectation is a bidding battle that should have the film skating into awards season before the weekend is over.
There was similar pre-fest chatter on Chappaquiddick, the John Curran-directed drama about the day that Sen. Ted Kennedy’s presidential hopes literally drove off a pier, in a fatal car accident that resulted in the drowning death of campaign strategist Mary Jo Kopechne and the aftermath that showed Kennedy was not fit for the White House. Kennedy is played by Jason Clarke and Kopechne by Kate Mara, and word was that Entertainment Studios’ Byron Allen bid as high as $12 million, sight unseen. Allen would not comment, but the sellers at WME Global decided to wait until Sunday’s premiere.
Honestly, there are so many buyers that need to fill 2018 slates – MGM just turned loose John Hegeman to revive Orion as a distributor, for instance – that there is every indication if the movies are good, the vast majority will sell. CAA, WME Global, UTA Independent and ICM Partners all came with a strong volume of titles. It will be a sellers market for some, and a transactional market for others. That has largely been the pattern since Netflix and Amazon Studios began lining their slates with prestige films and documentaries.
Few films will factor in the upcoming Oscar race, as most of the major prestige distributors have their Oscar horses in place and are using Toronto to launch them with fanfare.
Some films will require that kind of launch and that is the case for the Scott Cooper-directed Hostiles, after the film drew acclaim for the lead performance of Christian Bale. The film’s financiers won’t get an offer commensurate with a budget said to be around $50 million, but they should certainly get a distributor with room to market and distribute an awards-season title. There are already offers on the table, sources said.
Here are the titles that buyers tell me they are most keen on. This goes beyond films on the Toronto slate, and includes not only films playing at the festival, but promo reels and pre-buy opportunities. Sellers tell Deadline this has become an increasingly important part of every festival: titles are introduced to buyers and sometimes it means a quick sale. Other times, it creates awareness for the next festival, when promo footage or a finished film can be viewed. The intel here is raw, and some of it might not be ready.
I, TONYA – Director: Craig Gillespie. Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney. Robbie plays Tonya Harding, who rose from dirt poor origins to become an Olympic figure skater, and was disgraced when her husband tried to break the leg of her main rival in the 1994 Olympics. September 8, 9.30 PM – Princess of Wales
CHAPPAQUIDDICK – Director: John Curran. Cast: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Jim Gaffigan, Ed Helms. Ted Kennedy’s presidential aspirations are upended in the aftermath of a fatal car accident in 1969 that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne. September 10, 3 PM – Roy Thomson Hall
DISOBEDIENCE – Director: Sebastian Lelio. Cast: Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, Alessandro Nivola. Returning to her Orthodox Jewish home after the death of her rabbi father, a woman stirs up controversy when she shows an interest in an old childhood friend. September 10, 6 PM – Princess of Wales
EUPHORIA – Director: Lisa Langseth. Cast: Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charlotte Rampling. Estranged sisters travel across Europe together heading toward a mysterious destination. September 8, 5 PM
HOSTILES – Director: Scott Cooper. Cast: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Adam Beach. Legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory in 1882. September 11, 9.30 PM – Princess of Wales
THE CHILDREN ACT – Director: Richard Eyre. Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci. British High Court judge Fiona Maye toils over a case involving a young boy diagnosed with cancer who refuses treatment on his family’s religious beliefs. September 9, 2.30PM – Elgin Theatre
I LOVE YOU, DADDY – Director: Louis C.K.: Cast: Louis C.K., Chloe Grace Moretz, John Malkovich, Rose Byrne, Charlie Day, Helen Hunt, Edie Falco. A TV producer and his daughter travel to China. September 9, 5.30 PM – Ryerson Theatre
BREATH – Director: Simon Baker. Cast: Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh. 13-year-old thrill-seeker in a coastal Australian town finds both exhilaration and danger,under the wing of a pro surfer. September 10, 4.30 PM – Scotiabank
KODACHROME – Director: Mark Raso. Cast: Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen. Father and son travel to the last Kansas photo lab to get their film rolls developed before Kodak Kodachrome film goes the way of the dinosaur. September 8, 2.30 PM – Princess of Wales
LOVING PABLO – Director: Fernando León de Aranoa. Cast: Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz. A journalist strikes up a romantic relationship with notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. September 11, 9 AM – Scotiabank 4
MARY SHELLEY – Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour. Cast: Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Joanne Froggatt, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams. How a love affair between poet Percy Shelley and 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin led to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. September 9, 6.30 PM – Roy Thomson Hall
THE RITUAL – Director: David Bruckner. Cast: Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Arsher Ali. College friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them. September 8, 11.59 PM – Ryerson Theatre (Public 1)
ON CHESIL BEACH – Director: Dominic Cooke. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson. A young couple takes a honeymoon in the ’60s-set drama. September 7, 5 PM – Winter Garden Theatre
PAPILLON – Director: Michael Noer. Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek. Remake of 1973 film in which a prisoner detained on a remote island plots his escape. September 7, 9.30 PM – Princess of Wales
UNICORN STORE – Director: Brie Larson. Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie. Moving back home after college, an imaginative girl tries to live in the real world as a mysterious salesman promises her a unicorn. September 11, 3 PM – Ryerson Theatre
WOMAN WALKS AHEAD – Director: Susanna White. Cast: Jessica Chastain, Michael Greyeyes, Ciaran Hinds, Sam Rockwell. Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples’ struggle over the rights to their land. September 10, 9:30 PM – Roy Thomson Hall
BODIED – Director: Joseph Kahn. Cast: Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Charlamagne Tha God, Anthony Michael Hall. Eminem-produced drama centers on a progressive graduate student who finds success and sparks outrage when his interest in battle rap as a thesis subject becomes a competitive obsession. September 7, 11.59 PM – Ryerson Theatre
DARK RIVER – Director: Clio Barnard. Cast: Ruth Wilson, Sean Bean, Mark Stanley. Following the death of her father, Alice returns to her hometown for the first time in 15 years, to claim the family farm she believes is rightfully hers. She meets an antagonistic brother she barely recognizes, who is worn down from keeping the farm going. September 10, 9 PM – Winter Garden Theatre
I KILL GIANTS – Director: Anders Walter. Cast: Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Madison Wolfe. Barbara Thorson struggles through life by escaping into a fantasy life of magic and monsters. September 8, 9.15 AM – Scotiabank 9
MOM AND DAD – Director: Brian Taylor. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur. Midnight Madness title puts a teenage girl and her little brother in survival mode during 24 hours of mass hysteria causing parents to turn violently on their own kids. September 9, 11.59 PM – Ryerson Theatre
REPLICAS – Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Cast: Alice Eve, Thomas Middeditch, John Ortiz. Neuroscientist William Foster, working on re-creating the human brain for what he thinks is Alzheimer’s research, uses his work to replicate his family after they’re killed in a car accident. September 7, 11 AM – Cineplex Varsity, Auditorium #5
FIRST REFORMED – Director: Paul Schrader. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyles, Victoria Hill, Philip Ettinger. Ex-military chaplain, is wrecked by grief over the death of his son. Seyfried plays a member of his church whose husband, a radical environmentalist, commits suicide, setting the plot in motion. September 11, 1.15PM – Scotiabank 13
SUPER SIZE ME 2: HOLY CHICKEN! – Director: Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock reignites his battle with the food industry — this time from behind the register — as he opens his own fast food restaurant. September 8, 2.30 PM – Ryerson Theatre
THREE CHRISTS – Director:Jon Avnet. Cast: Richard Gere, Walton Goggins, Peter Dinklage, Bradley Whitford, Julianna Margulies. True story of three men in a mental asylum who each believe that they are Jesus Christ, and the doctor who tries to convince them there can be only one. September 12, 11.15 AM – Scotiabank 4
PROMOS & SCRIPTS
THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE – Director: Fabien Constant. Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Kinney, Simon Baker, Common, Renee Zellweger, Phillipa Soo. A New York-based singer gets a grim diagnosis that puts her life and dreams into perspective.
SIGNAL HILL — Anthony Mackie plays young attorney Johnnie Cochrane who uncovers the truth in a police brutality case involving a young black man who dies in police custody. Taylor Hackford just committed to direct this.
THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A MODERN WOMAN – Director: James Toback. Cast: Sienna Miller, Alec Baldwin, Charles Grodin. Drama focuses on a woman who’s considered the world’s best actress, as she struggles to keep up appearances and responsibilities both professional and private. Expected to screen privately.
COLETTE – Director: Wash Westmoreland. Cast: Keira Knightley, Dominic West. French novelist Colette overcomes an abusive marriage to emerge as a leading writer in her country and a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY – Director: Mike Newell. Cast: Lily James, Michiel Huisman. Writer bonds with the residents of Guernsey Island in the aftermath of World War II when she writes their WWII story.
HARD POWDER – Director: Hans Petter Moland. Cast: Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum, Laura Dern. Remake of Norwegian film In Order Of Disappearance, in which a snowplow driver seeks revenge against the drug dealers he thinks killed his son.
HOTEL ARTEMIS – Director: Drew Pearce. Cast: Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate. A nurse runs an underground hospital in Los Angeles where criminals go but things get hairy when a patient checks in with designs to kill another.
MANHUNT – Director: John Woo. Cast: Hanyu Zhang, Masaharu Fukuyama. Prosecutor who’s accused of heinous crimes he didn’t commit sets out to clear his name.
OPHELIA – Director: Claire McCarthy. Cast: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen. Secret love between Ophelia and Prince Hamlet blossoms as war brews and betrayal tears apart Elsinore Castle.
AT ETERNITY’S GATE – Director: Julian Schnabel. Cast: Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac. The struggles of painter Vincent van Gogh as he paints masterpieces.
BOOK CLUB – Director: Bill Holderman. Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen. The lives of four sixtysomething women are shaken up after their book club assigns the saucy 50 Shades Of Grey.
THE BURNING WOMAN – Director: Jake Scott. Cast: Sienna Miller, Aaron Paul, Christina Hendricks. Woman raises her young grandson after her daughter goes missing.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN – Director: Xavier Dolan. Cast: Jessica Chastain, Kit Harington, Jacob Tremblay, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, Michael Gambon. American movie star has a secret correspondence with an 11-year-old Londoner.
DEATH IN EDEN – Matthew Orton. What really happened after the Mutiny on the Bounty, when Fletcher Christian led attempt to create paradise on Pitcairn Island. All but one sailor was murdered within four years.
THE DEVIL’S BRIGADE – Phillip Noyce directing Jonas McCord script on true WWII story of how a Jewish associate of Lucky Luciano’s crew is conscripted by the U.S. Army to help fight the Germans in Italy.
DUMPLIN – Director: Anne Fletcher. Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Danielle MaDonald. A girl with the nickname “Dumplin’ ” enters a beauty pageant in order to win over the boy she likes and stick it to the other girls at school.
EVERYBODY KNOWS – Director: Asghar Farhadi. Cast: Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz. Family drama that is just getting underway in production.
FREAK SHIFT – Director: Ben Wheatley. Cast: Alicia Vikander, Armie Hammer, Sasha Lane. Action thriller in which band of misfits hunt and kill nocturnal underground monsters.
GEORGETOWN – Director: Christoph Waltz. Cast: Waltz, Corey Hawkins, Vanessa Redgrave. German-born Georgetown socialite Else Breht is found dead and her husband is prime suspect.
A KID LIKE JAKE – Director: Silas Howard. Cast: Claire Danes, Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra. A couple raising a 4-year old son who prefers to dress up as princess.
LANDSLIDE – Director: Brian Kirk. Cast: Will Smith. Air Force reservist and interrogator Tony Camerino arrives in Iraq in 2016 during the heated hunt for ISIS founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
LORO aka THEM – Director: Paolo Sorrentino. Cast: Toni Servillo. Italian media tycoon-turned-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his inner circle create the drama.
NIGHT IN HATTON GARDEN – Director: James Marsh. Cast: Michael Caine, James Broadbent, Michael Sheen, Michael Gambon, Ray Winstone. The true tale of an over-the-hill gang that perpetrates the biggest jewel heist in British history. Pic is likely Sundance-bound.
PARTY OF THE CENTURY – Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini. Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Chloe Grace Moretz, Josh Gad. Party of the Century thrown by Truman Capote in 60s New York, seen through eyes of a doorman who attends and falls for a young starlet.
A PRIVATE WAR – Director: Matthew Heineman. Cast: Rosamund Pike, Nicholas Hoult. Story of fearless American war correspondent.
RED SEA DIVING RESORT – Director: Gideon Raff. Cast: Chris Evans, Haley Bennett, Greg Kinnear, Michael K. Williams. The daring rescue and transport of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1981.
RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE – Director: Wayne Roberts. Cast: Johnny Depp, Zoey Deutch, Danny Huston, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young. A world-weary college professor given a life-changing diagnosis decides to live life boldly.
RIO – D: Luca Guadagnino. Steven Knight script about a billionaire who taps a financially unstable old friend to help fake his death.