Cannes is one of the biggest markets, if not the biggest, for acquisitions in the film calendar, with hundreds of deals made, ranging from pre-sales for star-laden properties to distribution rights to terrible B-movies. This year, as with the unusually busy Sundance, has already been packed with deals, happily suggesting something of a renaissance in the independent film world. On top of the news that landed over the weekend that Rian Johnson‘s “Looper” heads up a pack of high-profile buys also including “Playing the Field,” “Arabian Nights” and “The Iron Lady,” another of our most anticipated films of the moment looks to have landed an American distributor.
Deadline reports that The Weinstein Company, who’ve already picked up “The Iron Lady” while in the South of France, are now close to landing “The Wettest County in the World,” the latest team up between Australian musician/screenwriter Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat, following “The Proposition” and “The Road” (the latter of which Cave only wrote the score for). The film, based on the novel by Matt Bondurant, is a Prohibition-set gangster tale about three Virginia brothers running a bootlegging gang, and has had a lengthy history, coming close to production in 2010 with Ryan Gosling, Paul Dano and Scarlett Johansson, before the financing fell apart.
Fortunately, the film fan’s favorite billionaire Megan Ellison stepped in, and the project’s now wrapped, with a tremendous cast headed by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBoeuf and Jason Clarke as the brothers, with Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain and Dane DeHann in support. A fierce bidding war emerged over the weekend after a sizzle reel was screened to prospective buyers, and for much of the weekend, it seemed as though Relativity were close to landing it.
However, it seems that the company’s head, Ryan Kavanaugh, wasn’t willing to give Hillcoat final cut on the still-in-the-editing-room project, and that, combined with Ellison’s good relationship with Harvey Weinstein (the pair are teaming on the new Paul Thomas Anderson project, as announced last week), seems to have given The Weinstein Company the edge. Nothing’s signed yet — frankly, we’re surprised that Harvey Scissorhands is giving up final cut where other studios wouldn’t — but it’s looking solid at this point.
The most surprising, and best news about the deal is that if TWC do pick it up, the film, which we hadn’t expected to see until spring 2012 at the earliest, will receive a platform, awards-qualifying run at the end of the year, before going wide in January or February. This means that, following their success this year with “The King’s Speech,” the Weinsteins are firmly back in the awards game. Not so long ago, the Jennifer Garner comedy-drama “Butter” looked like their best awards prospect, but in the last week they’ve picked up “The Iron Lady,” “The Wettest County in the World” and Cannes competition entry, silent film “The Artist” (which this writer’s gut already says is looking like a strong possibility for a Best Picture nomination), so expect them to be out in force come awards season.
As usual, Harvey is hedging his bets — if either “The Iron Lady” (which we suspect is a lock for a nomination for Streep, but a longer walk for Best Picture) or “The Wettest County” don’t land with critics, expect them to fall out of favor in a flash, just as “The Tempest” and “The Company Men” did last year. We’re just glad that we’ll see Hillcoat’s film by the end of 2011.