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How Rookie Director Tadjedin Made Miramax/Tribeca’s Last Night, Starring Knightley

How Rookie Director Tadjedin Made Miramax/Tribeca's Last Night, Starring Knightley

Last Night is a high-profile test of new indie distributor-on-the-block Tribeca Films’ video-on-demand model. Screening April 25 at the Tribeca Film Festival following its Toronto Fest debut, the movie was released on VOD on April 20, opening night of the Fest, and will open theatrically in limited situations on May 6. (Caryn James likes it. Trailer is below.)

The movie is a poster child for the challenges facing indie movies today. Financed by Gaumont, which raised production funds through foreign sales, Last Night was first acquired by Miramax Films, which parent Disney then put up for sale. After a long delay, the new owners are finally releasing the film by partnering with Tribeca. “It was a test in patience,” admits rookie director Massy Tadjedin (video interview below), who started out as an assistant to CAA agent Karen Sage, writing screenplays on the side, including straight-to-video Leo and Warner Independent’s The Jacket. Tadjedin befriended Brit star Keira Knightley during production, and jumped into directing by bringing her onto the European-flavored relationship drama Last Night, along with cinematographer Peter Deming. “There’s so much to learn,” Tadjedin says. “Doing it is the only way.”

Shepherded by CAA and producer Nick Wechsler (Requiem for a Dream) and with Gaumont and Knightley on board, Tadjedin was able to cast Sam Worthington as Knightley’s husband as he was still shooting Avatar. She had admired his work with Abbie Cornish in the Australian film Somersault. “I consider him a very dramatic actor,” she says. Rounding out her cosmopolitan cast, she added Cuban-American Eva Mendes as Worthington’s sexy co-worker temptress, and as Knightley’s ex-lover, French actor/director Guillaume Canet (The Beach, Tell No One). Last Night, about a husband and wife each contemplating infidelity on the same night, “feels modern, it feels like the New York of today,” she says. “You don’t have four Americans speaking with American accents. A night really can change the course of your life.”

Wechsler and vet costume designer Ann Roth helped the L.A.-based neophyte to choose some of her New York crew. The day before the start of shooting, Tadjedin was nauseous. But as anxious as she felt in advance, filming a movie with a single 35 mm camera in 28 days left little room for nerves. “That kind of schedule forces you to be instinctive, to go to the essential in every scene, every day, every night,” she says. “You’re not going back to that location. It forces this immediate concentration that helps the work, because it is so massive, there’s so much to be done, to achieve in the day, there’s almost no time to be nervous.”

The next test of the ongoing indie distribution experiment: will Miramax and Tribeca be able to pull film fans to see Last Night? “The industry is changing,” says Tadjedin. “I’m lucky to have a release.”

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