EXCLUSIVE: In what sets a high bar for the biggest deal at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival, Media Rights Capital has acquired world rights to Knives Out, a contemporary murder mystery that will star Daniel Craig as a detective assigned to solve the crime, with Rian Johnson directing.
The film is now fully financed and ready to shoot in November, with Craig starring before he returns to James Bond 25, which is in the process of getting a new director after the exit of Danny Boyle. Johnson, who wrote the script and is producing with partner Ram Bergman, will direct this as his first film since the $1.3 billion global-grossing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and before he and Bergman return to architect a new trilogy in the Star Wars universe that Johnson is writing to direct.
There were multiple parties interested in an auction held by CAA Media Finance and FilmNation, but MRC was most aggressive in essentially greenlighting the film. Its commitment is upwards of $40 million, and strong back-end for Craig and the filmmakers. The film is best described as a modern day murder mystery in the classic whodunit style, infused with Johnson’s original voice that informed films from Brick to Looper. Johnson is casting around Craig an ensemble of six to eight actors who’ll co-star.
MRC will approach distributors in the next several weeks. Its financing commitment eases the pressure to lock that down. The deal was different from the Cannes frenzy for 355, the international spy thriller that Simon Kinberg will direct with Jessica Chastain producing and starring with Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Bingbing Fan and Lupita Nyong’o. CAA Media Finance and FilmNation came out of Cannes without about 30 territorial deals, including one for Universal to release domestically. That process has been pushed to a future date for Knives Out.
“We have been massive fans of Rian and Ram’s since we saw Brick and have been pursuing them ever since,” said MRC co-presidents of film Brye Adler and Jonathan Golfman in confirming the deal to Deadline. “Knives Out is such a fun, inventive and entertaining film and we are thrilled to partner with Rian, Ram and Daniel on this exciting, original project.”
Johnson & Bergman also sent a statement: “We are so excited to work with Brye, Jonathan and the whole team at MRC. They’re true movie fans and will be terrific partners for this adventure.”
In an interview with Deadline when the project was revealed Tuesday, Johnson said he loves Agatha Christie’s rich characters and twist and turns in the locked-door mansion murder mystery format and has been figuring out a contemporary version for a decade. He wrote it over the summer, and when Craig suddenly became available, he and Bergman jumped to secure him. Knives Out launches their new production company, which they’ve yet to name.
It is a bold play for MRC, which is coming off Baby Driver and has the returning series House of Cards, Ozark and Counterpart, and has the Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh-produced Mortal Engines coming in December.
Craig is repped by CAA, Sally Long-Innes at Independent Talent and attorney Doug Stone; Johnson & Bergman are with CAA and attorney Stephen Clark.