EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures is nearing a world rights deal and a budget commitment of more than $40 million for the hottest Cannes package, Down Under Cover, the mismatched buddy cop comedy that stars Avengers: Endgame‘s Chris Hemsworth and Girls Trip‘s Tiffany Haddish, from a script by Peter Hoare. It’s one of the largest Cannes deal ever struck by a studio for a package.
Paramount’s Wyck Godfrey and Elizabath Raposo were driving forces behind the deal, and the pic is now eyeing a February 2020 production start. Others who made bids include Lionsgate, Sony, Netflix, Miramax (to finance) and STX. With gross, the commitment is close to $50M, sources said.
It has been a one-two punch on the Croisette for Paramount chairman Jim Gianopulos, there to unveil the Dexter Fletcher-directed Rocketman with Taron Egerton starring as Elton John and the two of them rocking out with an outdoor concert after the film’s premiere. The studio separately drew raves for its Hulu limited series Catch-22 with premieres in Rome and London and garnering strong reviews for the series that features Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
By the time that Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo and Mike Larocca earlier this week joined the producer roster of Thematic Entertainment partners Hemsworth, John Finemore, James Hoppe and Ben Grayson, and Haddish as producers, there were already four offers on the table.
In Down Under Cover, Hemsworth will play a detective who goes undercover to crack a series of baffling casino heists in which the prime suspects are a troupe of Australian male erotic dancers. He’s forced to take the partner no one else will — Haddish’s character, a lone wolf who does things only one way: hers. Together they have to work as an unlikely duo to solve the crime of their careers.
The package was introduced at Cannes by CAA and FilmNation, who teamed in brokering last Cannes’ biggest deal, 355 — the global spy thriller that sold out to the walls last Cannes, including a $20M Universal U.S. deal for the Simon Kinberg-directed film that will star Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing and Lupita Nyong’o. They also brokered together the George Miller-directed 3000 Years Of Longing, and Knives Out, the contained whodunit that Rian Johnson directed with Daniel Craig leading the ensemble cast.
Bringing Down Under Cover to Cannes ratcheted up a greenlight-level bidding, and the presence of the Russo brothers as producers helped that effort even though the project has not yet set a director.
Haddish is repped by UTA, Artists First and Del Shaw Moonves. Hoare is Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Hemsworth is repped by CAA, Fourward, and Greenberg Glusker.
CAA and UTA are repping domestic.