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Imagine Entertainment’s Pelé Biopic Can’t Find a Distributor, 2 Years After Filming Wrapped. Why?

Imagine Entertainment's Pelé Biopic Can't Find a Distributor, 2 Years After Filming Wrapped. Why?

Update on a feature film that was actually made in 2013, but has yet to screen publicly anywhere…

Exclusive Media’s Pelé biopic, which the company took to the Marché du Film (Cannes Film Market) 2 years ago, to sell international rights for has yet to find a distributor – this according to a Hollywood Reporter report this morning. In fact, it’s been struggling to find one, thanks in part to reshoots and a lengthy post-production phase that caused delays (apparently, despite production beginning in 2013, the film was only just completed earlier this year); also sales company Exclusive Media imploded.

The finished product was shopped at Cannes this year, but there were no takers, and one can only wonder why, given that it’s a film about, arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Pelé (born Edison Arantes do Nascimento) – a man very well known internationally (even if there may not be as much awareness of him and his accomplishments here in the USA). Add to that, the fact that the film is backed by super producer Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment.

I’d guess that the film may have lost some of its luster, since it was originally supposed to premiere prior to the 2014 World Cup, to take advantage of what could’ve been free advertising, as well as the overall spirit of that summer, which was exciting for sports fans worldwide.

“Without the World Cup hype as a marketing tool, soccer movies can be very difficult to sell to audiences,” said one European buyer to The Hollywood Reporter – a buyer who was initially interested in the film, but, after screening it, felt it was “too art house for mainstream audiences and not mainstream enough to play multiplexes in Europe,” as it’s a film that I’d sure would likely earn the bulk of its box office outside the USA.

And the recent FIFA corruption scandal probably isn’t helping much either.

Jeff and Michael Zimbalist are co-writers and co-directors of the film which, according to Imagine Entertainment, is more of a coming-of-age story that will trace Pele’s childhood until he won his first World Cup in Sweden at the age of 17. Leonardo Lima Carvalho plays Pelé at age 10 years old, and Kevin de Paula, plays Pelé from ages 13 to 17, when he won his first World Cup, in 1958. 

Vincent D’Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, Colm Meaney and Seu Jorge all round out the cast of the film. D’Onofrio plays the Brazilian team’s coach, Vicente Feola (when they won the 1958 World Cup), while Boneta plays Jose, Pelé’s main competition, who also gave him the nickname “Pelé” when they were both kids. Seu Jorge plays Pelé’s father, Dondinho. And Meaney is the British coach of the Swedish nation team that lost to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup final – George Raynor.

The cast also includes several Brazilian actors in Marianna Nunes, Milton Goncales, Rafael Henrique, Marcus Vinicius, Julio Levy, Thelmo Fernandes, Felipe Simas, and Charles Myara.

The initial 2013 eight-week shoot (Matthew Libatique shot it) took place entirely on Pelé’s home turf, in Brazil.

“Pelé” is produced by Imagine Entertainment and Seine Pictures, who successfully acquired the rights to Pelé’s life story. The film is executive produced by Pelé himself, alongside Paul Kemsley for SLI/Legend 10 and Exclusive Media.

So we continue to wait… it distributors prefer to release the film around a related event like the World Cup, we might be waiting a while; the next World Cup will be hosted by Russia in 2018 – 3 years from now.

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