UPDATED, 9:16 AM: Sony Pictures Classics has confirmed Deadline’s scoop out of Toronto that it has acquired The Leisure Seeker, director Paolo Virzi’s road-trip film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. Read SPC’s official announcement below.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, September 15: Another splashy Toronto deal near: Sony Pictures Classics is close to landing The Leisure Seeker, the Paolo Virzi-directed film that stars Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. The deal is mid-seven figures for U.S. rights and some other territories.
Mirren and Sutherland play a long-married couple who fear they are nearing the end of the road. So the couple decides to stretch that road by hopping aboard a vintage Winnebago Leisure Seeker to visit the Key West house of John’s hero, Ernest Hemingway. They do this despite the warnings of their doctors back in Boston and their grown children who all think this road trip is a bad idea. The film is currently in production, and the deal is being made on promo footage.
This has been an intriguing package, brokered by CAA with BAC Films. Like the Pablo Larrain-directed Jackie, this first caught the interest of buyers at Cannes, but no deal was consummated despite a lot of interest. The film is based on the 2009 novel by Michael Zadoorian.
While the pace of deals has been sporadic at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival, CAA has had a very strong festival, between finished films and pre-buys. That started with the Focus Features deal for the untitled Paul Thomas Anderson-directed drama that will star Daniel Day-Lewis, and continued with the Ben Younger-directed Isle of Man with Bold Films. The agency has brokered finished-film deals for Jackie, Colossal, The Bad Batch, Their Finest, and the Netflix buy of What Happens to Monday. Many of the films playing in the festival were sold in pre-buys here by the agency, including A Monster Calls, Nocturnal Animals, Loving, American Honey and Bleed for This.
Virzi directed Like Crazy, which played in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. Leisure Seeker reunites Mirren and Sutherland, who played a couple in 1990’s Philip Borsos-directed China-set saga Bethune: The Making of a Hero. Francesca Archibugi and Francesco Piccolo wrote the Leisure Seeker screenplay in collaboration with Stephen Amidon and Virzi. Fabrizio Donvito, Benedetto Habib, and Marco Cohen is producing for Indiana Production Company, with Alessandro Mascheroni, Daniel Campos Pavoncelli and Dov Mamann serving as exec producers. Indiana Production Company is producing with RAI Cinema. 3 Marys are the associate producers. BAC Films’ David Grumbach and Mathieu Robine are also in producing capacities.
Numerous attempts to reach SPC were unavailing.
Here is the official announcement from Sony Pictures Classics:’
Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all rights in the US, Latin America, Asia (excluding Japan), Eastern Europe, Portugal and South Africa to Paolo Virzì’s THE LEISURE SEEKER.
Currently in production, the film stars Academy Award-winner® Helen Mirren and two-time Golden Globe-winner® Donald Sutherland as a runaway couple going on an unforgettable cross-country journey in their vintage camper. Ella and John are fleeing the suffocating care of their doctors and grown children. He is distracted but strong; she is frail but sharp. Their journey aboard the faithful old camper they call The Leisure Seeker takes them from Boston to Key West. Sharing moments of exhilaration and anguish, they recapture their passion for life and their love for one another on a road trip that provides revelation and surprise right up to the very end. Written by Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo, Stephen Amidon, and Virzì, THE LEISURE SEEKER is inspired by the novel of the same name by Michael Zadoorian.
Sony Pictures Classics said, “The Leisure Seeker looks to be a major 2017 find. This is a rich story that promises career best performances from Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. We look forward to bringing Paolo Virzi’s film to audiences in the United States and around the world.”
THE LEISURE SEEKER is produced by Indiana Production’s Fabrizio Donvito, Benedetto Habib, and Marco Cohen, alongside Rai Cinema. The film is executive produced by Indiana Production’s Alessandro Mascheroni, Dov Mamann and Daniel Campos Pavoncelli, as well as David Grumbach, Mathieu Robinet, and Gilles Sousa of BAC Films.
“We are very glad and proud that our film will continue its journey with Sony Pictures Classics. We are confident that it will be a great journey,” said Indiana Pictures.
“We are very proud and happy to be working with SPC. We respect their love of Cinema and powerful stories, and we know they will make this beautiful film a commercial success,” added David Grumbach of BAC Films.
THE LEISURE SEEKER marks Paolo Virzì’s first film shot entirely in the US. His previous film LIKE CRAZY played in the Directors’ Fortnight at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
The deal was negotiated between CAA, Gilles Sousa from BAC Films and Sony Pictures Classics.