Indiewood companies are active here at the Toronto International Film Festival, buying and showcasing new films at this increasingly important event. Sony Pictures Classics in particular has increased its large slate of Toronto titles, acquiring North American and South American rights to Tommy Lee Jones‘ “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”. Winner of the best actor award (for Tommy Lee Jones) and the screenwriting award (for Guillermo Ariaga) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “The Three Burials” is a modern day western starring Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones and Melissa Leo is screening as a Gala presentation and Sony Classics is planning an Oscar qualifying run later this year, according to company co-president Tom Bernard.
With the acquisition of Tommy Lee Jones’ acclaimed feature, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” Sony Pictures Classics is riding high this fall offering an impressive slate of new films. Company chiefs Michael Barker and Tom Bernard toasted their 2005 Toronto entries Saturday night at Michelle’s Brasserie off Yorkville in Toronto, welcoming an array of talent from their films, including director Bennett Miller, actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, and writer Dan Futterman from “Capote”, filmmaker Neil Jordan and star Cillian Murphy from “Breakfast on Pluto”, director Jeff Feuerzeig and producer Henry Rosenthal from “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”, director Eugene Jarecki from “Why We Fight”, among others. Talent mixed with the many critics and journalists in the room, posing for photos and offering quotable comments.
At one booth, Philip Seymour Hoffman cornered Cillian Murphy to bestow considerable praise for the actor’s acclaimed work in numerous films this year. Meanwhile across the room, Bennett Miller beamed with pride at the sight of the “Capote” poster, thrilled with the final result and saluting the precision of Hoffman’s performance as Truman Capote. Over at a table in the center of the room, Feuerzeig and Rosenthal reflected on a stunning festival run which has seen “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” screen at Sundance, New Directors, SXSW, Edinburgh and now Toronto, among many other fests — an impressive feat. The two seemed comfortable with a recent decision to bump the release of their doc to March of 2006, apparently to accommodate Sony’s busy slate. Meanwhile, at the same table a pair of competing columnists got into a bit of an argument about recent reportage, as things got even more heated, “Why We Fight” director Eugene Jarecki interrupted, smiling, “I just have to say, this is the most real conversation I’ve heard here, it’s great!”
By the end of the meal, the columnists seemed to have made up and many of the party guests headed next door to Flow for the popular party to celebrate Ang Lee‘s “Brokeback Mountain”, winner of award for best film at the Venice Film Festival last night. While stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Anne Hathaway mingled and posed upstairs for a number of digital camera shots from photographers and fans, director Lee was conspicuously absent. Focus Features learned that Lee was wanted back in Venice while the director was already on a plane to Toronto, according to an insider. They hastily arranged for a return flight and as the director stepped off the plane here in Canada, he was ushered aboard another flight to travel back to Venice to accept the Golden Lion for “Brokeback Mountain.”