The inside story of a star football player who went to war in the wake of 9/11 and then died on the battlefield is coming to U.S. theaters after closing a deal with Harvey Weinstein following its debut last month at the Sundance Film Festival. In its second major acquisition of a Sundance film, The Weinstein Company bought Amir Bar-Lev's documentary, "The Tillman Story" from A&E IndieFilms. TWC acquired North American theatrical, DVD and pay TV rights, as well as all rights in English language territories.
"What they said happened, didn't happen," Pat Tillman's mother, Mary, says early on in "The Tillman Story," "They made up a story, so you have to set the record straight."
Mystery surrounded the passing of Tillman after he was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, sparking a Congressional investigation into the cause of the pro football player's death. He was awarded the U.S. military's Silver Star for dying in the line of enemy fire, but facts later revealed that he was killed by friendly fire. The film takes a broader look at Tillman's life and the often conflicting accounts of his death, including a tug-of-war between the U.S. military and his own family as the facts surrounding the incident are revealed.
Weinstein acquired rights from A&E IndieFilms, which produced the doc. The deal was brokered by Molly Thompson and Robert Sharenow from A&E Network. CAA and Josh Braun and Jason Janego from Submarine repped the film, making the deal with Harvey Weinstein and David Glasser from The Weinstein Company.
"The public perception of Pat had squashed the complexity of his character— it had made him into a symbol, not a human being, it had, even, in a way, robbed the family of the chance to grieve," Bar-Lev explained in an indieWIRE interview prior to the Sundance fest. "There’s a wrenching scene in the film at the memorial service for Pat a week or so after he was killed. Maria Shriver stands in front of the Tillmans and gathered guests and says, 'Pat – your family doesn’t have to worry any more. You are home, you are safe.' Richard Tillman, Pat’s younger brother, then gets up and says, 'Pat would want me to say this: he’s not in heaven, he’s fucking dead. Thanks for your thoughts — but he’s fucking dead.' The family’s mission was to keep Pat a human being, not a symbol – and we made it our first order of business in storytelling."
"We don't know how to treat heroes," explained Amir Bar-Lev, during a Q & A about the film at Sundance last month. "We take their complexity and turn them into cartoon characters."
Last week, Weinstein also acquired Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" at the festival.