EXCLUSIVE: Upstart Solstice Studios has won an auction for the Toronto buzz title Good Joe Bell, the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed drama scripted by the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain team of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. The film stars Mark Wahlberg as the title character. Sources said the deal is around $20 million for worldwide rights, and that the film will get a proper theatrical release in the upcoming awards season. It becomes yet another big deal in the mostly virtual Toronto Film Festival.
The film also stars Reid Miller, Connie Britton and Gary Sinise, and tells the heartbreaking true story of Joe Bell, an average guy from the heartland who has difficulty showing support and acceptance of his teen son Jadin when the youth reveals he is gay. As a sophomore and a member of the high school cheerleading squad, the teen was subjected to unmerciful bullying by school jocks. Joe Bell is ill-equipped to handle things as are school officials who won’t discipline the bullies. Ashamed of his own inability to handle the situation in the moment, Bell resolves to walk cross country to protest bullying and its dangerous impact on young people who are different.
Good Joe Bell premiered last Monday at TIFF Bell Lightbox and buyers watched through secured links. The picture originally was going to be acquired before production by A24 and Apple TV +, but that fell through eight weeks before production. It was funded by Argent Pictures, Hercules Film Fund and Endeavor Content. The promo reel was shown last Toronto so buyers were primed.
While most of the big deals at Toronto have so far been made by streamers — Netflix spent around $60 million for the Halle Berry-directed Bruised, Malcolm & Marie and Pieces of a Woman, Solstice Studios is a strong landing place for Good Joe Bell and it refreshing to see a company set up for theatrical releases make a major festival deal. Solstice took a risk by making its inaugural film, the Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged, the first new picture to play in movie theaters since the pandemic shut everything down. The $33 million budget road rage film continues to play with little else in theaters and is expected to earn out when all is said and done. Led by veteran executive Mark Gill, Solstice scored points with exhibitors giving them a solid film as they struggled to reopen, and that will likely pay off when it comes knocking with Good Joe Bell as its second entry.
Producers on Good Joe Bell are Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, Eva Maria Daniels, Cary Fukunaga, Ryan Ahrens, Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson, with Jill Ahrens, Ben Renzo, Derrick Brooks, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, Jean-Luc De Fanti, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ossana, McMurtry, Peter Pastorelli, and Uwe R. Feuersenger exec producing. Pic’s a co-production between Argent Pictures, Endeavor Content, Hercules Film Fund, Rhea Films, Stay Gold Features, Nine Stories Productions, VisionChaos, Parliament of Owls, and Wahlberg/Levinson.
Endeavor Content brokered the deal with Crystal Bourbeau, Head of Acquisitions, and president/CEO Mark Gill for Solstice Studios.