Following its world premiere at Toronto, HBO Films has taken exclusive North American rights to Barry Levinson’s The Survivor about Holocaust survivor and U.S. boxer Harry Haft. Ben Foster plays Haft in the movie, which marks a reteam with his Liberty Heights writer-director Levinson. Deal was 8-figures, making it the biggest one in a subdued Toronto marketplace.
After being sent to Auschwitz, Haft survived not only the unspeakable horrors of the camp but the gladiatorial boxing spectacle he was forced to perform with his fellow prisoners for the amusement of his captors. Unbeknownst to those who try to destroy him, Haft is driven by the most important reason any man has to survive: a quest to reunite with the woman he loves. After a daring escape, he makes his way to New York, where he succeeds in using his boxing skills to establish a name for himself in the hope of finding his one true love. His indomitable spirit lands him in the ring with boxing legends like Rocky Marciano as he fights to make sense of his past and reclaim the life that was stolen from him.
The movie is based on the book Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano by Alan Haft. Rain Man Oscar winner Levinson directs, reteaming with HBO, having helmed such movies as Paterno, You Don’t Know Jack and The Wizard of Lies; those HBO films amassed 26 Emmys. Justine Juel Gillmer adapted The Survivor.
The Survivor is produced by New Mandate Films’ Matti Leshem (The Shallows), BRON Studios’ Aaron L. Gilbert (Bombshell, Monster, The Front Runner), Baltimore Pictures’ Jason Sosnoff (HBO’s Paterno, The Wizard of Lies) and Barry Levinson (Donnie Brasco, Bugsy) and Scott Pardo (Hope & A Little Sugar). Executive Producers are Joel Greenberg, Ben Foster, Danny Devito, Brenda Gilbert, Steven Thibault, Ashley Levinson, Anjay Nagpal, Ron McLeod, Jason Cloth and Richard McConnell.
The Survivor also stars Vicky Krieps, Billy Magnussen,, Peter Sarsgaard, Saro Emirze, Dar Zuzovsky, Danny DeVito, and John Leguizamo.
Levinson, who also produced, said, “Having done numerous films at HBO, I don’t know of a better home for The Survivor.“
Producers Matti Leshem and Aaron L. Gilbert said: “The Survivor is the true story of a man who confronts the ultimate moral dilemma in the face of one of the world’s greatest evils, Nazism. Harry Haft’s journey takes him from the depths of Auschwitz and into the ring with Rocky Marciano as he negotiates his new life and seeks the woman he loves. At a time when hatred based on race and belief is escalating, Harry’s story is a reminder of overcoming adversity against all odds. We were thrilled to launch the film at TIFF and the subsequent tremendous reception we received. We are delighted that the team at HBO shares our passion and we are looking forward to launching this important story with them.”
The film’s production was aided by a team at USC Shoah Foundation, who provided detailed historical consulting in addition to access to a testimony of Haft, filmed in 2007 and preserved within USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive.
Said HBO Programming EVP Francesca Orsi: “We are immensely proud to bring The Survivor to the HBO and HBO Max audience. Barry’s meticulous exploration of this true story of unimaginable choices, perseverance and redemption coupled with Ben’s transformative performance will captivate viewers and stay with them long after the credits roll.”
WME Independent brokered the deal with HBO.