EXCLUSIVE: STX and Sparkle Roll’s The Foreigner, originated by The Fyzz Facility, has already crossed $100M globally and is nearing $100M at the international box office with $98.5M projected through this weekend. After some mixed attempts by others, this one is a fine example of how a Chinese co-production can work. That arrangement was engineered by the folks at STX and co-star Jackie Chan’s Sparkle Roll Media after the project was brought to them by Fyzz founder Wayne Marc Godfrey for whom this has been a decade-long labor of love.
Godfrey, whose Fyzz Facility, a production and finance company that’s invested over $280M into 200+ features over the last six years, has credits on dozens of movies, but The Foreigner is the film he’s been the most involved with and he calls it his “baby,” adding, “I’ve known it longer than my wife.” He recently told me about how The Foreigner came to fruition.
The Englishman says when he was a boy he “wasn’t a very big reader but my dad would give me books to encourage me and once, before a vacation, he gave me The Chinaman.” That’s the 1992 thriller by Stephen Leather on which The Foreigner is based. “It got me into reading and the story always lived with me.”
The Foreigner sees a humble businessman (Chan) with a buried past seeking justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official (Pierce Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.
When he set up Fyzz and was looking for things to adapt, Godfrey reached out to Leather who was living in Thailand but was soon coming to England. “So we met in Soho and I bought him a boozy lunch and told him how much I loved his book. I had no money, but I managed to persuade him to give me the option for £100 with a promise to just go for it. He was just like, ‘Whatever. Go ahead kid,'” Godfrey says. “I think he probably thought I was crazy, but it began a journey.”
From there, Godfrey who had happened to have once driven screenwriter David Marconi (Live Free Or Die Hard) on a location scout around London, sent him the book. “I went to Cannes just to meet him and followed him around talking about the book… I chased him every few weeks to see If he’d read it yet and he was like, ‘Stop pestering me.’ But one day I got the call and he said, ‘You found a really good book.'”
Godfrey then started raising money from friends and family for the development pot, but needed a Chinese lead. STX optioned the script with Chan attached and Campbell with whom Marconi worked on the script together over several months before filming began in 2015.
Says Godfrey, “What was really lucky for this film was how China has become a very meaningful part of the film equation in the last five years. Having a Western film, but with a Chinese lead that was completely organic was quite fresh.” The film shot for 10 days in China and the rest in the UK.
Godfrey praises STX, who set up the co-pro with Sparkle Roll, saying, “They have delivered everything they said they would.”
Folks suggest this is a co-production that came with the right recipe and its commercial appeal outside China is perhaps a sign of what’s to come. Still, there was some concern that if it didn’t get co-production status the China return would be too low to run the risk. A decision was made to greenlight before approval from SAPPRFT, but having Chan’s involvement helped. Ultimately, overseas markets are expanding their P&A based on the film’s performance thus far, and some countries are changing their release plans. There are still several markets to go including France, Russia, Brazil, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The Foreigner is at $80.5M in China — lower than some of Chan’s more traditional action comedies, but for folks not used to seeing him in such a dramatic role outside of perhaps the Police Story movies, this is a very good number. Plus, 40% of the Chinese box office flows back to the partners rather than the usual 25% because of the co-production status.
The film is also playing to audiences outside China with $25.6M in the U.S. The Asian markets have stood up well and it’s going great in the Middle East. The pic should final around $150M worldwide. That’s a nice result on a $35M co-pro.
Another Fyzz film, 47 Meters Down, was also granted approval for a wide Middle Kingdom release on December 8. “To have two films in one year get a wide release in China and domestically for a UK company is pretty terrific,” Godfrey tells me.
“From the family relationship with my dad and this book, this feels like the end of an amazing chapter in my life,” says Godfrey. “When I first started on this journey, I had made one movie as a physical producer and a couple of music videos. It was incredibly scary — I had no real idea what I was doing. Now I look at the business I run and the 20 people we employ and the sheer quantum of movies we’re involved with and how my world has changed. But (The Foreigner) has been ever-present in all of this. So it’s an amazing chapter end or a new chapter beginning at this point. This has been the biggest of all our films, maybe not budget size, but in terms of how it’s arrived in the world. It makes me excited to find the next one.”
Some of Fyzz’s previous credits include Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, Martin Scorsese’s Silence and Rob Reiner’s Shock And Awe. Upcoming projects include sequel 48 Meters Down; Three Seconds starring Rosamund Pike, Joel Kinnaman and Clive Owen; and The Strangers 2: Final Score starring Dave Bautista.