EXCLUSIVE: Joe Bell, the drama that stars Mark Wahlberg as a father who walks across America to honor his bullied gay son, is doing some more traveling. The film has been acquired for theatrical release by Roadside Attractions, with Vertical Entertainment aboard for a post-theatrical digital release. It opens July 23.
Joe Bell made its world premiere at virtual Toronto 2020, at which time it was acquired by Solstice Studios in a $20 million worldwide rights deal. I’d heard that Solstice might exit, and it has. That company, which released its first film in the Russell Crowe-directed Unhinged, is constructed to do theatrical releases of 2,000 screens and up. The pandemic, and the film’s subject matter, seem better served with a slower rollout, and Joe Bell now will begin on about 750 screens and build upward from there. The deal was negotiated by Roadside’s Howard Cohen, Vertical’s Peter Jarowey and Endeavor Content.
The drama is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) from a script by the Brokeback Mountain duo of Diana Ossana and the late author/scribe Larry McMurtry. It veers from Wahlberg’s wheelhouse. He plays the rough-edged Oregon-based father who pays tribute to his gay teenage son Jadin by embarking on a walk across America to speak his heart to heartland adults and students about the potential terrifying high costs of bullying. The themes of tolerance and listening to your children are timely topics.
Newcomer Reid Miller (as Jadin), Connie Britton and Gary Sinise star alongside Wahlberg. The film is produced by Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, Eva Maria Daniels, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Ryan W. Ahrens, Ben Renzo, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson.
“As parents and members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are thrilled that a star of Mark’s magnitude has chosen to share Joe Bell’s message of acceptance with filmgoers,” said Roadside co-presidents Eric d’Arbeloff and Howard Cohen. That distributor is coming off the Renee Zellweger starrer Judy and The Peanut Butter Falcon.
“With movie theaters reopening, we are excited to partner with exhibitors to bring the extraordinary story of Joe Bell and his son Jadin to audiences around the country,” Wahlberg said.
“Joe Bell has always been a labor of love and a story that we feel is necessary and resonant not only first and foremost for the LGBTQ+ community but universally for parents and caretakers at large,” said the film’s producers in a joint statement. “We can think of no better home than Roadside Attractions, shepherded by Eric and Howard’s skillful leadership, to bring Jadin and Joe Bell’s story to theaters.”
The pic will be released as Endeavor Content presents, in association with Argent Pictures and Rhea Films and Hercules Film Fund, A Stay Gold Features/Nine Stories/VisionChaos/Parliament of Owls Production, A Closest to the Hole/Leverage Entertainment Production.