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WaxWord tracked down a beaming Sony Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman after the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.” The Cannes audience, which always loves Tarantino, gave him a lengthy standing ovation at the Palais de Festivals. But the early critical reactions were also glowing, hence the happy movie executive, accepting good wishes at the hotel rooftop after-party.
Rothman, at pains to emphasize that his studio wants to make distinctive, original films amid the rush of superhero fare and franchises, called this moment in the industry “the best of times, the worst of times.”
Here’s the conversation:
Sharon Waxman: Congratulations.
Tom Rothman: Thank you. It’s a great director, great film. That’s what happens more often than not. We firmly believe that there is room for originality. It’s not easy, with all the sequels and super heroes. And God knows, we’re grateful for it. It’s a big part of our slate. We’re going to fight for originality too. It’s important that big studios not let that go extinct.
How do you continue to nurture that? Quentin is somewhat unique – his recent movies have done really well. This feels like a hit. And he wins Oscars.
He’s what we would call in Silicon Valley, a unicorn.
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
How do you duplicate that?
You don’t. There’s no duplicating Quentin Tarantino. What you need to do is try to look for projects that can have cultural relevancy and cultural impact. Look at “Get Out.” It’s a first-time filmmaker. It’s a really inexpensive budget. I admire it tremendously.
Everyone wants a “Get Out.”
It’s not based on anything but his (Jordan Peele’s) idea. It can be done, but you have to commit. And I’ll tell you what, you’re going to stumble sometimes. You can’t do it and take risk out of the business. What we try to do at Sony is have a really balanced slate. We have a lot of IP [intellectual property]. A lot of regenerated IP, more IP that we’ve had in a long time. We have “Spider-Man,” the “Zombieland” sequel and a “Jumanji” sequel, which is a sequel to a $900 million movie. “Men in Black.” We have a lot of IP. That’s your base.
But you want to make some bets.
Yes, try. If you believe, as we do, that there is a place for originality in the movie theaters.
Does that mean giving final cut?
Not necessarily. Quentin Tarantino is a final cut director, but I think final cut is a vastly overrated creation in the sense that 99 times out of 100, who has final cut is the audience. You’re going to have to test for the audience. Most directors know that.
What’s your marketing plan for this film?
Our marketing plan is high, wide and handsome. We have two of the biggest if not the biggest stars in the world, then a third wonderful actress in it. We have three big stars and a fun movie.
Do you think this would be up for an Academy Award campaign?
I would not presume to prognosticate.
Do you have a sense if you want to support it that way?
Sure, we’ll support it. But it’s very early days. I wouldn’t be presumptuous.
What do you think about the business right now?
It’s a tale of two cities. It’s – best of times and worst of times. There are large conglomerate forces operating in the streaming area. But the flip side is also true. Our content is really valuable right now. We are still investing heavily. It’s been the case that our content the last two years has been successful. That is pretty valuable out there in the world.
One of your competitors just went away (Fox), but one of your competitors just got super-sized (Disney). Do you feel like it’s harder to compete, or do you just stay in your lane?
They are a big, great company. I feel like it’s always hard to compete. But there are opportunities for us. We are in the theatrical business. When you have success theatrically, then the downstream value right now is very strong. It’s very strong right now. I just got interviewed for something, and they asked, “What do you see in 10 years?” And actually, I really don’t have an answer. I feel like a dumbass, more than I do every day. (Laughs.)
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Jamie Dornan is set to star in “Carmen,” a reimagining of the classic French opera in a musical film that has already been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.
Dornan will star alongside Mexican actress Melissa Barrera in a film that will be the directorial debut of Benjamin Millepiedm the French choreographer and dancer behind “Black Swan.” Dimitri Rassam will produce, and the film is scheduled to begin production in October in Los Angeles.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz is writing the shooting draft of the screenplay for “Carmen,” and Nicholas Britell, an Oscar nominee for “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” will write the score. He’ll also write several original songs for the film along with singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas.
French composer Georges Bizet’ opera “Carmen in set in Seville, Spain, and tells the story of a soldier who is seduced by a fiery gypsy, causing him to desert his military duties, leave his childhood love and ultimately lose Carmen’s love to another. Barrera will play the lead Carmen, and Dornan will play the male lead Aidan.
Rassam’s Chapter 2 is financing and producing “Carmen,” along with Mimi Valdès and co-producers Marvelous Productions. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the rights for North America, Latin America, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East. TF1 Studio will handle other international sales at Cannes.
Barrera is a Mexican actress who will next be seen in the musical adaptation of “In the Heights” from producer Lin-Manuel Miranda. She’s represented by UTA, Cross Over Entertainment, and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” star Dornan will next star in John Patrick Shanley’s “Wild Mountain Thyme.” He is repped by UTA, Troika and Sloane, Offer and Weber & Dern.
Variety first reported news of the project.
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Sony Pictures Classics has acquired all of the rights to Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams’ “After the Wedding,” which was the opening night film at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Bart Freundlich directed the film that also starred Billy Crudup and Abby Quinn. It is an adaptation of Susanne Bier’s Academy Award-nominated Danish film of the same name.
The film is produced by Joel B. Michaels and Harry Finkel, and it is an Ingenious Media and Riverstone Pictures presentation, executive produced by Nik Bower and Deepak Nayar for Riverstone and Peter Touche and Andrea Scarso for Ingenious.
“After the Wedding” follows Isabel (Williams) who is dedicated to her life working in an orphanage in India. She soon hears of a mysterious and generous grant from multimillionaire Theresa (Moore), she travels to New York to meet Theresa in person, only to uncover some family secrets that affects them all.
SPC and Freundlich previously worked together on his first feature, “The Myth of Fingerprints.” The distributor has also worked with Moore on several films, including “Vanya on 42nd Street,” “Safe” and “Still Alice,” for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
“I’ve known Michael and Tom for 23 years when we worked together on my first film, ‘The Myth of Fingerprints,’” said Freundlich. “They have impeccable taste, so it is very exciting, and great vote of confidence that they believe so whole heartedly in ‘After the Wedding.’”
SPC added: “Stunning performances with a nail biter of a story executed perfectly by director Bart Freundlich. ‘After the Wedding’ makes for a perfect end of summer release.”
“After the Wedding” will be released in August. The deal was negotiated by Endeavor Content and Cornerstone Films on behalf of the filmmakers.
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