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The Spoils: To Sell Nicholas Jarecki's 'Arbitrage' to Awards Voters, Backing Richard Gere Is a Smart Investment

Photo of Jay A. Fernandez By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire October 31, 2012 at 11:30AM

One of the surprises of the 2011 awards season was the box office and critical success of “Margin Call." First-time writer-director Nicholas Jarecki's financial thriller “Arbitrage” has been following a similar course, but this time Roadside is banking on star Richard Gere to seal the deal.
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The drama of the story in "Arbitrage" may be universal, but when it comes to success during awards season, the focus inevitably must become more personal. Which is why having Gere as the lead provides Roadside with an enviable hook.

"Margin Call"
"Margin Call"

“What I see them doing that they didn’t with ‘Margin Call’ is they're leading with their leading man, using Gere to lift the film more than they did with ‘Margin’ and its brilliant cast,” says one veteran awards consultant. “On ‘Margin Call,’ they led more with topic and timeliness.”

The implication is that hitting the zeitgeist bullseye may put a smaller film in more viewers’ queues, but it’s the personal connection to the talent that often pushes a good film over into awards territory. “Winter’s Bone,” another Roadside release, rode the discovery of Jennifer Lawrence into Oscar nods not just for her but also for John Hawkes, the adapted screenplay and the film in 2010 (plus seven Spirit noms).

For as long as he’s been working, Gere has never been nominated by the Academy, while the foreign press has attempted to reward him every 10 years or so — they put him up for best performance by an actor in 1982 (“An Officer and a Gentleman”), 1990 (“Pretty Woman”) and 2002 (“Chicago”), when he finally won. Since it’s now 2012, he’s come due again. (Gere was part of the ensemble cast that earned the Spirits’ Robert Altman Award in 2007 for “I’m Not There.”) He’s a natural fit as a (mostly) undecorated veteran who has earned the respect of the industry for his career as a whole, though unlike Al Pacino and Paul Newman he doesn’t have a string of nominations, from the Academy at least, that he’s building on. But recognition for Gere shines a bright light on other aspects of the film.

So there was Gere receiving a career achievement award at the Hollywood Film Awards a few weeks ago, and he’s already been part of several event Q&As with his co-stars and Jarecki, with more guild events to come. The filmmakers have been promoting the film internationally, as well, in Abu Dhabi, Zurich and Spain, for instance, which should please the foreign press. But this is a part of the process that Jarecki, for one, tries not to dwell on.

Gere in "Chicago"
Gere in "Chicago"

“I really try to stay somewhat divorced from the ‘strategy,’” says Jarecki. “It’s not good to campaign against your fellow artists for what you hope is a piece of art. It’s not good for the soul. But everybody can get caught up. These films are like our children, we want them to do well, we want people to see them. You work years and years on these things, I guess this is the moment to have some parties. I try for sanity purposes not to scheme too much, and rather to enjoy the convivial party atmosphere. Whether it’s manufactured or not, it’s still a great opportunity to celebrate filmmaking.”

As it happens, Jarecki could be sharing stage space with older brother Eugene, whose drug-war documentary “The House I Live In” has been drawing strong notices and key celebrity support (third brother Andrew directed "All Good Things" and the Oscar-nominated 2003 doc "Capturing the Friedmans"). Either way, Jarecki, who claims that "Arbitrage" is already profitable, knows that any kind of attention that the dog-and-pony show can bring to an independent film is extremely valuable.

“Audiences now are very tough because there’s so much distraction,” he says. “It’s important to get as much help as you can in focusing attention on the movie. These things do matter – the Independent Spirit Awards, Sundance, the Academy, Globes. We’re not dying without it. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a great extra push for a film that really started as a little film and stayed an independent film 100% and is a really nice showcase for a lot of talent old and young.”

“It’s a great time to be a filmmaker,” he adds. “I want to keep doing these types of films that are independent in spirit. We’re in a unique time where, if you have a well-known cast that is willing to work at a discount — not even a huge discount, but a discount — you can go and, without a studio, cobble a film together.”

This article is related to: Arbitrage, Nicholas Jarecki, Awards, Richard Gere, The Spoils, Margin Call







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