EXCLUSIVE: NEON has teamed with Topic Studios to win a pitched bidding battle and will pay north of $4 million for U.S. rights to Spencer, with Pablo Larraín is set to direct and Kristen Stewart to play Princess Diana. The drama has been one of the most hotly contested packages at the virtual Cannes Market.
The Steven Knight-scripted film covers a critical weekend in the early ‘90s, when Diana decided her marriage to Prince Charles wasn’t working, and that she needed to veer from a path that put her in line to one day be queen. The drama takes place over three days, in one of her final Christmas holidays in the House of Windsor in their Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. Production is expected to begin in early 2021.
Searchlight, Universal and A24 were the other distributors I heard were in the mix. Tom Quinn’s NEON is coming off the stunning Oscar triumph of Parasite, and has been aggressive in the marketplace, teaming with Hulu for a precedent setting Sundance deal on Palm Springs. This gives the distributor another strong picture for the future. NEON previously teamed with Topic Studios to acquire the Sundance 2019 pic Luce, the thriller directed by Julius Onah.
The U.S. deal was brokered by CAA Media Finance and Endeavor Content, with FilmNation Entertainment handling offshore. This is the second major deal for those parties today, with Emancipation near closing. That deal is a world rights pact to either Apple or Warner Bros, but while they got a couple of worldwide offers for Spencer, the filmmakers decided to spread this one out and international buyers have been all over it. I expect deals to be closed in short order, something that points to vibrancy in the global market.
While some wondered if the Virtual Cannes market would be worthwhile, this deal and the one about to close on Emancipation would indicate there’s a lot of buyer appetite which should bode well for the other numerous titles in play.