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News from Cannes: Firth & Blunt for Untitled Dark Comedy, Little Birds, Sleight of Hand, The Bleeder

News from Cannes: Firth & Blunt for Untitled Dark Comedy, Little Birds, Sleight of Hand, The Bleeder

Thompson on Hollywood

Amidst the long-awaited festival premieres, starting with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris Wednesday night, many projects, new and old, are selling in the Cannes market, which is humming with activity:

– First off, two popular Brits, Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, will co-star in a dark comedy to be directed by commercial-turned-feature director Dante Ariola. Focus Features International is selling foreign rights. Becky Johnston wrote the original screenplay about a man who hates his life and fakes his own death in order to buy a new one (synopsis below). Johnston’s credits include co-writing Prince of Tides and Seven Years in Tibet; she’s also penned scripts for directors Gus Van Sant, Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott. Lensing is slated for this fall.

The project is a Vertebra Films/Cross Creek Pictures production; Focus is handling international sales.

Wallace Avery (Firth) hates his job, his ex-wife and son hate him, and he blew his one shot at living his dream.  Not wanting to face all this, he stages his own death and buys himself a new identity as Arthur Newman. However, Arthur’s road-trip towards a new life is interrupted by the arrival of the beautiful but fragile Mike (Blunt) who is also trying to leave her past behind.  Drawn to one another, these two damaged souls truly begin to connect when they break into empty homes and take on the identities of the absent owners: elderly newlyweds, a high-roller and his Russian lady, amongst others. Through this process, Arthur and Mike discover that what they love most about each other are the identities they left at home, and that is when the real healing begins.

Thompson on Hollywood

– Avi Lerner’s Millennium, rocked by the loss of foreign sales ace Danny Dimbort and cohort Christian Mercuri to Red Granite International) has landed North American rights to Little Birds, which premiered at Sundance. The film, from writer-director (and ex-gang member) Elgin James, stars Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Kate Bosworth and Leslie Mann. Jamie Patricof (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson), who produced alongside Alan and Gabe Polsky, says: “Millennium is the perfect marriage for the picture – a vibrant new theatrical division whose unabashed enthusiasm for the title is matched by substantive financial support and resources.” Millennium plans to release the film this fall. Here’s the synopsis:

Little Birds follows 15 year-old Lily and her best friend Alison on the shores of the Salton Sea.  What was once an oasis for the wealthy and famous has become a near ghost town.  Lily is sprinting towards adulthood, hoping to escape her small, dying hometown. Alison is content with her life, sheltered from the uncertainty of growing up. When the girls meet three street kids, Lily convinces Alison to follow the boys to LA.  They fall into the boys’ world of scams and petty crime.  When an idea is hatched to use Lily as “bait,” she must decide how far she will go to grow up and Alison must decide how far she will go to protect Lily.

-Meanwhile rights to The Wolf of Wall Street are now in the hands of Red Granite Pictures (which is already selling Friends With Kids). Leonardo DiCaprio will star in the story based on Jordan Belfort’s biographical novel and is producing through his Appian Way banner. ThePlaylist has more on the project, and why Martin Scorsese and Warner Bros. are no longer involved.

– Action-comedy Sleight of Hand is being sold at Cannes through Hannibal Classics. Produced by Marco Polo Productions, the film is set to shoot this summer in Paris. Attached to star are Kiefer Sutherland, Gerard Depardieu, Til Schweiger, Thomas Jane, Johnny Hallyday, Jon Lovitz and Eric Cantona. Brad Mirman will direct. Here’s the synopsis:

In Sleight of Hand, also starring French actors Jean Luc Couchard, Nora Arnezeder and Patrice Cols, the international cast plays a crew of small time crooks in Paris, who inadvertently end up possessing a rare gold coin belonging to a notorious French gangster. The leader of the crew calls his uncle (Depardieu), a retired criminal, to help them raise the money to repay the gangster. The series of mix-ups and double crosses culminate as the gangs are pit face to face, chasing through Paris.

– Strand Releasing has acquired US distribution rights to Here, from writer-director Braden King. The film, starring Ben Foster (The Messenger) and Lubna Azabal (Incendies), premiered in Berlin earlier this year. The road movie follows an intense love affair between an American satellite-mapping engineer and an expat Armenian photographer. This is the first American film to be produced in Armenia.

– Here are TOH reports on Killer Elite (Open Road Films) and Dragon (The Weinstein Co.).

– Hyde Park is shopping The Bleeder, with Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber and Christina Hendricks attached to star. The project, to be directed by Jeff Feuerzeig (he co-wrote with Jerry Stahl), is based on heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner (he went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and was the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky). Here’s more.

– Katie Holmes and Chace Crawford are pairing for Responsible Adults, slated to shoot this fall in Los Angeles. Alex Schemmer wrote the comedy-drama and Jon Poll will direct. Here’s more.

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