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“Tree of Life” Finally Takes Root as Fox Searchlight Makes Deal

"Tree of Life" Finally Takes Root as Fox Searchlight Makes Deal

Terrence Malick’s highly anticipated and long delayed “The Tree of Life” has finally found a plan of release. Fox Searchlight Pictures announced today that the company has acquired U.S. rights from River Road Entertainment for the film, which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and was previously set for release by problem-plagued Apparition Films. Fox Searchlight Pictures will release the film in 2011.

“Terrence Malick has crafted a deeply moving, keenly observed and magisterial film,” said Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley in a statement. “Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and the entire cast’s performances are simply amazing. This is a signature film by a signature filmmaker and we are proud to be releasing it.”

The film was produced by Bill Pohlad, Sarah Green, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, and Grant Hill. Speculation as to when the film would be released has been a continuous story for the past year. Last month, Todd McCarthy suggested the film might be headed to Cannes 2011. “As late as early May, the reclusive auteur’s incipient effort was still awaited as a possible last-minute entry at Cannes [2010],” McCarthy said as he wrote about his experiences programming the New York Film Festival. “After its non-appearance there, it was considered a sure thing for the Venice-Toronto-New York circuit. We got excited when we learned it wouldn’t make those first two fall-season festivals but would almost certainly be ready for us in New York, which allowed us to dare to dream of the most brilliant closing night attraction ever… but [now] I’m convinced we won’t be seeing ‘The Tree of Life’ until, at the earliest, the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Or perhaps it could turn up at the New York Film Festival a year from now.”

The film’s struggle to find a release date has not been helped by the troubles of its producer Bill Pohlad’s Apparition Films. Just before this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Bob Berney – who held the top post – left the company suddenly. That was the beginning of the end of Apparition, which just this week laid off almost all of the few staff members that remained. And now Pohland has sold the film to Fox Searchlight.

“Terry Malick has given us another masterpiece that is both profoundly moving and stunningly beautiful,” said Pohlad in a statement. “And there is no better partner than Fox Searchlight to bring this film to audiences. Their ability to distribute and market independent films with a passion and creativity is incredibly rare in our industry.”

The deal was brokered on Fox Searchlight’s side by Executive Vice President of Worldwide Acquisitions Tony Safford and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien. Mitch Horwits, President of River Road Entertainment negotiated on behalf of the company.

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