UPDATED with official confirmation: New Line has confirmed Deadline’s scoop that it has acquired Blinded By the Light after its big Sundance Film Festival bow, and that it is eyeing a release for the Gurinder Chada-directed pic sometime in 2019. The studio’s announcement Friday can be found below our original break.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, January 28 AM: In yet another all-night deal auction at the Sundance Film Festival, New Line and Warner Bros are acquiring for $15 million for worldwide rights, minus a a few territories, the Gurinder Chada-directed Blinded By the Light. The film killed at its packed premiere Sunday night at Eccles and tells the story of a Muslim teen in 1987 Britain who learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Like 16 songs worth of the Boss’ coming-of-age songs.
A big wide release is planned for the pic starring Viveik Karla, Nell Williams and Hayley Atwell. New Line and Warner Bros won an auction rumored to have included Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate and others. It is the biggest sum paid for a Sundance film so far in what has turned out to be a very hot market.
Endeavor Content brokered the all-night deal, and ICM Partners reps Chada.
eOne already had pre-bought UK, Australia and New Zealand on the film.
The deal is both New Line and Warner Bros, the latter of which will market and distribute the film. Release details still are being decided, but they’re looking at a possible summer berth. The studio has been doing well in a variety of avenues, from Crazy Rich Asians and A Star Is Born to the Peter Jackson WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old.
Some of the allure of Blinded by the Light had to do with the surprisingly universal appeal of Springsteen’s coming-of-age tunes, which tell honest stories about a hardscrabble upbringing, ambition and the fight to break free of all shackles to do something worthwhile with one’s life. Chadha wrote the script with Sarfraz Manzoor and Paul Mayeda Berges.
The film was financed by Levantine Films was produced by Chada, Jane Barclay and Levantine’s Jamal Daniel. The exec producers are Tory Metzger, Renee Witt, Peter Touche, Stephen Spence, Hannah Leader, Tracy nurse and Berges.
The film revolves around Javed, a 16 year old Pakistani boy growing up in Margaret Thatcher’s England in 1987, in the town of Luton. His father’s recent job termination and the neighborhood skinheads are a daily reminder of the difficult times he’s living in. What young Javed really wants is to be a writer — something his father doesn’t approve of or understand — and when a new friend loans him a few Bruce Springsteen cassettes, Javed is changed forever. The Boss’ working-class anthems and affirming lyrics seem to speak directly to Javed, emboldening him to find his own voice as a writer, stand up to the racism around him and challenge his father’s rigid ideals.
Based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park by journalist/writer Sarfraz Manzoor. Manzoor is even more of a Springsteen fanatic than I am, and he’s been to about 150 shows. Landing the rights to use that many songs from an artist as major as Springsteen is a blockbuster proposition. But Springsteen has been in a very introspective mode with his autobiography and Broadway show, and the filmmakers met Springsteen and charmed him enough to bless the project and make it possible to feature his songs.
Springsteen didn’t take part in last night’s Park City premiere as had been rumored; Chada told the crowd that the Boss didn’t want to overshadow the proceedings and take the focus away from the film. His support certainly will help the picture as New Line and Warner Bros roll it out in that wide release this year.
For New Line, it’s the first Sundance acquisition since the docu Batkid Begins. At the time, New Line released the docu about the ailing little boy in San Francisco, for whom the city turned the metropolitan area into Gotham City, with the child thwarting villains in the Batmobile. New Line also captured narrative remake rights, and while that hasn’t happened, the ultimate happy ending did: The youth’s cancer is in remission.
Here’s the release confirming the deal:
New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures have acquired writer/director/producer Gurinder Chadha’s Sundance Film Festival charmer “Blinded by the Light.” The deal follows a rapturous five-minute standing ovation at the film’s world premiere at the festival, marking Chadha’s triumphant return to Sundance 16 years after the U.S. debut of her breakout hit, “Bend it Like Beckham.” New Line has secured worldwide rights to the film, excluding certain international markets pre-sold to eOne in an early and integral partnership. Warner Bros. Pictures expects to release the film in 2019.
An inspiring crowd pleaser about rock ‘n’ roll and coming of age, “Blinded by the Light” tells the story of a British Muslim teen whose affinity for the music of Bruce Springsteen gives him the courage to believe in himself, find his voice and chase his own “runaway American dream.” The film is written and directed by Chadha, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park, and underscored by the music of “The Boss” himself—Bruce Springsteen—who gave Chadha his blessing from the film’s inception.
“This is a dream come true,” said Chadha. “I was already overwhelmed by the amazing reception for the film, but to find a home at New Line and Warner Bros. and to have the support and passion of people who embrace the universality of this story is fantastic. Bruce congratulated me on the amazing response saying how pleased he was for me. I hope ‘Blinded by the Light’ will inspire, entertain and resonate with audiences everywhere, and do justice to both Sarfraz’s wonderful memoir and the moving words and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen.”
Added Carolyn Blackwood, President & Chief Content Officer, New Line Cinema, “‘Blinded by the Light’ is one of those incredibly special films, filled with humanity, heart and pure joy, that is simply impossible to resist. Gurinder has deftly woven the story of a young man desperately seeking to find his place in the world with some of Springsteen’s most iconic music to create a deeply relatable, funny and moving film. We are thrilled to partner with Gurinder and her producing team to bring this crowd-pleasing film to audiences everywhere.”
“Blinded by the Light” stars Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams and Aaron Phagura. The film was written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, who also produced alongside Jane Barclay and Jamal Daniel. The executive producers are Tory Metzger, Renee Witt, Peter Touche, Stephen Spence, Hannah Leader, Tracy Nurse and Paul Mayeda Berges.
Chadha’s behind-the-scenes creative team was director of photography Ben Smithard, production designer Nick Ellis, editor Justin Krish, and costume designer Annie Hardinge. The original score music is by A.R. Rahman.
“Blinded by the Light” is a Levantine Films and Ingenious Media and presentation of a Bend It Films Production.
The deal was negotiated by Endeavor Content on behalf of the filmmakers. Cornerstone handled international sales. Chadha is repped by ICM Partners.