The deal brings the Universal specialty label back in business with the filmmaker behind their upcoming Oct. 22 drama thriller Last Night in Soho. Universal will distribute the movie overseas.
The Sparks Brothers, from MRC Non-Fiction, made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year, notching a 100% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film chronicles the decades-long career and influence of Sparks, Los Angeles musician brothers Ron and Russell Mael. One was the wavy haired singer with the soothing voice, and the other played instruments with a quirky look and a Hitler-type mustache on his face. Sparks became more of a sensation over in England than the U.S. though the guys did ultimately build out a fervent cult following here. Sparks had an absurdist style in their songs and album covers, the latter often featuring crazy photos of them, i.e. dressed as a bride and groom, modeling before plane debris in suburbia, or tied up as though they were kidnapped in the back of a boat. Arguably underrated, their style and antics would influence the Go-Gos, Paul McCartney, Toni Basil, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even “Weird Al” Yankovic. While most niche musical bands have fallen apart, the Sparks have consistently remained successful in refusing to sell out, while maintaining a consistent number of fans over the years, both new and old, who crowd their tour dates. The Sparks Brothers features commentary from celebrity fans such as Flea, Beck, Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, and more.
Wright has been a fan of Sparks since childhood, having first noticed them on the early UK show Top of the Pops, which was similar to American Bandstand here in the states.
“Ron and Russell cut a very striking figure. Seeing Sparks on Top of the Pops for people was very memorable or perhaps intimidating,” Wright told Deadline during our virtual Sundance studio.
Wright met the guys via Twitter: He learned that they were followers of him, and lived within 25 minutes of him in Los Angeles. Wright met them for breakfast soon after. But it was after one of their L.A gigs in 2017 that Wright, encouraged by filmmaker friend Phil Lord, sparked to the idea of making a documentary about them.
Wright also produced the documentary with his producing partner Nira Park, though their company Complete Fiction Pictures, along with producers George Hencken, and Complete Fiction’s Laura Richardson. The film was financed by MRC Non-Fiction.
Says Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski, “It’s hard to imagine a better pairing of subjects and filmmaker than Ron and Russell and Edgar. For the past five decades, Sparks have been pushing the bounds of pop music with iconoclastic style and a perpetual mission to try something new rather than relying on the tried-and-true. It’s that perseverance that has made them among the most influential bands in history. In telling their story, Edgar has crafted an absolute joy bomb that will literally have you dancing in the aisles whether you grew up following them or are just now realizing how much their sound already shaped your life.”
“I’ve had the privilege of seeing Focus Features do what they do best, and they are the perfect team to bring Edgar’s love letter to Ron & Russell to audiences around the world – we are truly envious of everyone who will get to experience Sparks for the first time,” said Amit Dey, Head of MRC Non-Fiction.
Wright is represented by CAA and Nelson Davis.
Check out our Sundance interview with Sparks and Wright below: