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TIFF: Lionsgate/Roadside Nab Fourth Hot Fest Title

TIFF: Lionsgate/Roadside Nab Fourth Hot Fest Title

Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions are jointly acquiring North American distribution rights to Joss Whedon’s quickie adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which played well at the Toronto Film Festival. This is the latest buy from the two companies, which have been on a spree at this festival.

As he was in post-production on Marvel’s “The Avengers,” the year’s biggest blockbuster, Whedon made a contemporary, black-and-white “Much Ado About Nothing” for the love of Shakespeare, which his English teacher mother read to him as a child in Manhattan. Producers Whedon and his wife Kai Cole shot the film in 12 days at their home in Los Angeles–in iambic pentameter–via their new indie microbudget studio, Bellwether Studios. (They are currently completing post-production on Whedon’s romantic script “In Your Eyes,” directed by Brin Hill.)

The cast is packed with Whedon faves: Amy Acker and Alexis Denis, who starred in Whedon’s “Angel” and participated in a reading of the play several years ago, play the scheming Beatrice and Benedick who prep for the wedding of Claudio and Hero. Also starring are Clark Gregg (“The Avengers”) and Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher (Whedon’s TV series “Firefly” and the movie “Serenity”).

LIonsgate also released Whedon’s “Cabin the Woods,” reminds Whedon: “I’m thrilled to be working with my cronies at Lionsgate again, and with The Roadside team. That they all embrace a Shakespearean romance with the same enthusiasm they had for Cabin in the Woods shows that they’re exactly the mad fools we want to be partying – I mean working – with.”

Here’s the synopsis:

Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof ) have just returned home to Messina after a successful campaign abroad. When earnest Claudio announces his adoration for the lovely Hero (Jillian Morgese), daughter of Messina’s governor Leonato (Clark Gregg), the acid-tongued Benedick teases him mercilessly. Benedick’s scorn for love is matched by that of his long-time nemesis and verbal sparring partner Beatrice (Amy Acker), Leonato’s niece. As the lovestruck Claudio and Hero make plans to marry, Benedick and Beatrice resume the “merry war” of insults they have long waged. Yet there are many who believe that for all their antagonism — or even because of it — this pair of incessantly sniping cynics is surely meant to be a couple. As matchmaking schemes are put into play and disguises are donned, loathing and love soon prove to be close cousins.

This is Lionsgate/Roadside’s fourth pick-up of the festival. They also partnered to acquire U.S. rights to Stuart Blumberg’s directorial debut, the sex-addiction comedy “Thanks for Sharing,” starring Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins and singer Pink, for probable release in 2013. (They acquired the film for just over $2 million.) The companies also closed a deal on the Kristen Wiig comedy “Imogene.” On its own out of Telluride, Roadside bought rights to Sarah Polley’s family secrets documentary “Stories We Tell.”

Roadside, which shepherded Oscar contenders “Winter’s Bone,” “Margin Call” and “Albert Nobbs,” will release in 2012 Sundance films “Arbitrage” and “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare,” as well as Cannes acquisition “Mud.” Most of these new buys will come out in 2013. 

Among other Toronto buys, Focus Features landed hot title “A Place Beyond the Pines,” starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, which Weinstein Co. tried to nab. Cooper is having a good fest, as he also stars in the hit of Toronto, TWC’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” In another key pick-up at Toronto, IFC Films took Neil Jordan’s stylish vampire film “Byzantium.”

Still in play are Brian De Palma’s “Passion,” the Somali pirates movie “A Hijacking,” and Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s Julianne Moore-starrer “What Maisie Knew.”

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