EXCLUSIVE: The Mel Gibson-Sean Penn period film The Professor and the Madman will be getting a theatrical release with Vertical Entertainment after the distributor took U.S. rights to the Voltage Pictures production. A theatrical release is planned for the second quarter of this year.
Gibson and his Icon Productions had tried to block the release of the movie, which is based on Simon Winchester’s book about the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary. This was spurred by a disagreement with Voltage CEO Nicolas Chartier over the pic’s shooting location. Gibson and director Farhad Safinia wanted key scenes shot in Oxford, England instead of Trinity College in Dublin. Voltage argued the pic was already over budget and behind schedule, with Gibson and Safinia reportedly walking off the pic.
In the movie Gibson plays Professor James Murray and Penn portrays William Minor, an asylum inmate. Together they team to create the famed dictionary in the mid 19th century.
Gibson’s Icon sued Voltage in 2017 alleging that the company reneged on its deal by refusing to allow Safinia to complete the film. Gibson also wanted to prevent Voltage from screening the pic for potential distributors. However, LA Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan ruled last June that “Plaintiff did not submit admissible evidence showing the existence of an actual controversy with Defendants.” From what we hear Gibson will not be promoting the title, which will thus challenge Professor and the Madman‘s commercial prospects.
The latest Vertical acquisition was negotiated by the company’s Rich Goldberg and Peter Jarowey and Nicolas Chartier and Jonathan Deckter of Voltage Pictures on behalf of the filmmakers.
P.B. Shemran is listed as taking over the $25M production, with a co-writing credit shared with Todd Komarnicki. Chartier and Gastón Pavlovich produced; executive producers are Dominic Rustam, Zev Foreman, Peter McAleese, Tyler Zacharia and Manu Gargi; co-EPs are Macdara Kelleher, Deckter and Jenny O’Brien. Fábrica de Cine also produced with Voltage in association with Fastnet Films, Definition Films, 22h22, Zik Zak Filmworks and Caviar Antwerp.
Gibson is repped by CAA and Rogers & Cowan. Penn is represented by CAA and ID Public Relations.