Big-canvas projects such as Will Smith starrer Emancipation and Michael Mann movie Ferrari will be on sale alongside action-thrillers like Gerard Butler movie Kandahar and Nick Jonas title The Blacksmith, adventure pics like Arthur The King, dramas such as James Gray’s starry Armageddon Time and genre fare like Elisabeth Moss movie Run Rabbit Run. There are a handful of intriguing prospects still to be announced and we’re also seeing recent deals being revealed for Cannes Official Selection movies.
The large volume of pre-sale titles seems counter-intuitive amid coronavirus uncertainty and has taken many by surprise but the pandemic has meant talent have had time to read material and with schedules in flux, there may be opportunities for more nimble productions to get underway ahead of larger movies or stage plays.
That said, it has been noted to us that a number of the announced projects don’t have start dates or firm financing in place. Another question mark hangs over just how many of the buzzier titles will be genuinely available for foreign buyers. The trend in recent markets has been for studios and streamers to swoop in and snatch up some of the hottest prospects. Streamers may be even hungrier than usual given the production pause.
Overall there is a mood of optimism, however. “It feels good to be fully operational again,” one leading seller told us last night.
“It’s not a worthy substitute for in-person deal-making but I’m feeling chipper,” said a veteran international buyer. “In terms of the number of packages it seems almost ahead of recent physical Cannes markets. There are a number of strong combinations of directors and cast. The magnitude and quality is impressive and surprising. But perhaps that’s because timings are vague.
“In a bizarre way this is as effective as it can get in terms of deal-making,” they continued. “Costs will be down and people will be focused. But it removes the social component, so it becomes very clinical. The schmoozing, the dinners and the ‘romantic’ aspects of a market are removed.”
As buyers and sellers begin their zoom calls and presentations (across US, European and Asian time zones), we’re hearing about a few tech glitches – logins not working, buffering due to traffic etc – and some quality control issues on the panels. “Hopefully it’s just first morning teething issues – I would prefer this process to work!” one buyer said. But tech hiccups were probably inevitable given the newness of the undertaking.
You can read all about how the virtual market came together and how it will work here.
Spencer – Kristen Stewart will star as Princess Diana in Spencer, which is being directed and produced by Jackie filmmaker Pablo Larraín. The script by Steven Knight covers a critical weekend in the early ‘90s, when Diana decided her marriage to Prince Charles wasn’t working, and that she needed to veer from a path that put her in line to one day be queen. The drama takes place over three days, in one of her final Christmas holidays in the House of Windsor. Production is expected to begin in early 2021. CAA Media Finance arranged the financing and will make the U.S. distribution deal with Endeavor Content, while FilmNation Entertainment represents international rights.
Arthur The King – Sierra/Affinity will be repping international rights on Arthur The King after the movie moved from Paramount Players to Lionsgate as its new domestic home. Mark Wahlberg is starring in the canine adventure pic with Baltasar Kormakur on directing duties. The movie follows a man who befriends a wounded stray dog during a 400-mile race through the Ecuadoran jungle where they crossed rivers and battled illness and injury through some of the world’s toughest terrain.
Armageddon Time – Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro, Oscar Isaac, Donald Sutherland, and Anne Hathaway are among the glittery cast of James Gray’s next film, which the director says will be the “opposite” of Ad Astra. This one is a coming-of-age story that explores friendship and loyalty against the backdrop of an America poised to elect Ronald Reagan as president. Producers are RT Features. Wild Bunch International is handling international sales and CAA Media Finance is on domestic distribution; the companies are co-repping Chinese rights.
Emancipation – Antoine Fuqua will direct Will Smith in this Willam N. Collage-scripted action thriller about the harrowing escape of Peter, a runaway slave forced to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey North. FilmNation Entertainment is on international sales, CAA Media Finance is repping domestic. Plan is to shoot early 2021.
Ferrari – Michael Mann’s passion project Ferrari is back on the grid with STX handling international sales and UK and Ireland distribution. Amazon is circling International territories and CAA Media Finance is repping domestic. Hugh Jackman remains in discussions to star as Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari and Mann has reworked the script from the late Troy Kennedy Martin. Plan is for a late 2021 shoot.
Songbird – This pandemic-themed thriller will be produced by Michael Bay and former Paramount production chief Adam Goodman’s Invisible Narratives. Adam Mason is directing from a script by Simon Boyes. Set to years in the future, the film is about a lockdown that has been re-implemented after a more serious virus continues to mutate. Pic was expected to be in production by June. ICM Partners and Endeavor Content are repping sales.
The Paris Trap – Lily James will lead this thriller that El Clan filmmaker Pablo Trapero will direct for Studiocanal. The Picture Company partners Andrew Rona & Alex Heineman will produce through their overall deal at Studiocanal, which is financing. The Hitchcockian thriller revolves around a young American woman on a visit to Paris who becomes the victim of mistaken identity.
Run Rabbit Run – Elisabeth Moss is re-teaming with The Handmaid’s Tale director Daina Reid on this Australian thriller, which follows a fertility doctor who is forced to make sense of the increasingly strange behavior of her young daughter Mia and confront a ghost from her past. Novelist Hannah Kent wrote the script, Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw are producing. XYZ is on sales.
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday – Lee Daniels is directing, producing, and co-writing this feature about legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, with Andra Day starring. Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund, Natasha Lyonne, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph also star. Sierra/Affinity will handle international sales.
Kandahar – Gerard Butler is set to star in this action pic, which sees him reteam with Angel Has Fallen director Ric Roman Waugh. Butler will play an undercover CIA operative working in the Middle East, whose identity is revealed after an intelligence leak. Thunder Road is among the producers. Capstone and CAA are launching sales.
Not Without Hope – Miles Teller is leading this story about a 2009 boating tragedy that saw four friends caught up in a violent storm. NFL star Russell Wilson and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Ciara are among the exec producers. Rupert Wainwright is directing from a screenplay by E. Nicholas Mariani. Highland Film Group is selling international and CAA Media Finance is on domestic.
Balestra Tessa Thompson and Marwan Kenzari will lead this psychological thriller. Nicole Dorsey will direct the story of disgraced competitive fencer Joanna Bathory (Thompson), who is desperately hoping for an Olympic comeback. Mister Smith is handling international sales while Endeavor Content and CAA Media Finance will rep domestic.
Panopticon – Narcos director Andrés Baiz will helm this thriller based on the Black List script by Emily Jerome. Film follows a rising hedge fund manager who hears about a little known financial gold mine called PCC Correctional, an Arizona based private prison system that racks up huge profits. Casting is underway. Scott Free is producing with AGC, which is handling international sales. CAA Media Finance is on domestic.
The Miracle Club – Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates and Laura Linney lead the cast of this pic directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. Film follows a group of working-class women from Dublin who go on a pilgrimage to France. Embankment is handling world sales.
Wildlands – Matthias Schoenaerts will play a bomb disposal expert in Kim Mordaunt’s Wildlands, which Tom Hardy and Dean Baker of Hardy Son & Baker will produce with Sylvia Wilczynski. Pic will be filmed on location in Africa. HanWay is handling world sales.
Burial – Niamh Algar, Tom Felton, Diana Rigg, Tom Glynn-Carney and Ian Hart will lead the cast of this WWII thriller, writer-director Ben Parker’s sophomore feature. Pic tells the fictional story of a small band of Russian soldiers led by female intelligence officer Brana Vasilyeva, who are tasked with trafficking Hitler’s discovered remains back to Stalin in Moscow. Matthew James Wilkinson is producing with Paul Higgins and Hugh Spearing, Ivo Felt is co-producer. Altitude is handling world sales.
Notre Dame On Fire – Wolf Totem director Jean-Jacques Annaud is teaming up with A Prophet scribe Thomas Bidegain to tell the true story of the fire at the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in 2019. The French-language feature will combine archive footage and filmed drama to tell the story. Pathé CEO Jerome Seydoux is producing and the team is looking at a late 2020 shoot. Pathé will also handle international sales and distribute in France.
Replay – Olivia Munn is attached to star in action feature Replay, playing a woman whose husband is kidnapped and murdered. Armed with only illegal, bleeding edge tech and a desperate plan, Erin must do everything in her power to change the past and save him. Jimmy Loweree is writing and directing, Ethan Erwin and Hal Sadoff are also producing for Dark Castle Entertainment. The Exchange is on international sales and CAA Media Finance is repping domestic.
Peggy Jo – The second Lily James project on this list, the British star is attached to play real-life bank robber Peggy Jo in this movie pitched as ‘Bonnie but without the Clyde’. Salt filmmaker Phillip Noyce is directing from a screenplay by Robert Knott. Simon Brooks is producing. HanWay Films has picked up international sales rights; UTA Independent Film Group is handling the U.S. sale.
Emily – Emma Mackey, Joe Alwyn, Fionn Whitehead and Emily Beecham will star in Emily, Golden Globe-nominated actress Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut about the early life of Wuthering Heights author Emily Brontë. Producers are Harry Potter producer David Barron, Piers Tempest and Jo Bamford’s Tempo Productions with Robert Connolly and Robert Patterson of Arenamedia. Embankment will handle world sales.
To Leslie – Andrea Riseborough, John Hawkes and Allison Janney will star in To Leslie, the story of a West Texas single mother who won the lottery and squandered it just as fast. Michael Morris is directing from a screenplay by Ryan Binaco. Claude Dal Farra and Brian Keady are producing for BCDF Pictures with Kelsey Law of Clair de Lune Entertainment. Mister Smith is handling international sales with UTA overseeing the U.S. sale.
On The Fringe – Spanish megastars Penelope Cruz and Luis Tosar will lead On The Fringe, which will mark the directorial debut of Argentine actor Juan Diego Botto. The Spanish-language film, told over the course of one day, will follow interweaving stories, including that of a woman who has 24 hours to prevent herself and her family being evicted from their home by a bank intent on repossessing it. Bankside is handling world sales.
Faster, Cheaper, Better – Nightcrawler filmmaker Dan Gilroy is helming his original script Faster, Cheaper, Better, following multiple characters whose lives are upended when automation and AI transform the world as we know it. Jennifer Fox is producing. FilmNation Entertainment is handling international sales and CAA Media Finance is on domestic.
The Fantastic Flitcrofts – Oscar-winner Mark Rylance says he is looking forward to making his big-screen comedy debut in The Fantastic Flitcrofts, a golf comedy-drama written by Paddington 2 scribe Simon Farnaby. Craig Roberts is directing. Producers include Nichola Martin of Baby Cow Films, Tom Miller of Water & Power Productions and Kate Glover. Cornerstone Films is handling world sales.
Joika – Jojo Rabbit star Thomasin McKenzie is attached to play American ballet dancer Joy Womack in biopic Joika. James Napier Robertson wrote the script and is directing. Producers are Tom Hern with Anonymous Content’s Paul Green (The Loft), Paula Munoz Vega and Laurie Ross. Pic will shoot in New Zealand in early 2021. Embankment Films are executive producers and are handling worldwide sales and co-repping U.S. rights with UTA Independent Film Group.
The Inventor – Star Wars star Daisy Ridley and UK comedy personality Stephen Fry are both onboard this feature animation from the writer of Ratatouille, Jim Capobianco. The Inventor will track Leonardo di Vinci as he leaves Italy to take up residence in the French court. Mk2 Films is handling international rights and The Exchange is overseeing the U.S. sale.
No Man Of God – Elijah Wood is to star as Ted Bundy’s FBI analyst in crime-thriller No Man Of God. Amber Sealey is directing from C. Robert Cargill’s script, with Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, Lisa Whalen, and Kim Sherman producing. The casting search for Bundy is ongoing. XYZ is handling international sales.
Alpha Gang – Andrea Riseborough, Jon Hamm, Nicholas Hoult, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Mackenzie Davis, Sofia Boutella and Steven Yeun lead the ensemble cast of Alpha Gang, David and Nathan Zellner’s pic about a group of aliens sent on a mission to conquer earth. Adele Romanski and Sara Murphy of Pastel will produce. Protagonist is handling international sales, with CAA Media Finance on North America.
Lamya’s Poem – Animated feature Lamya’s Poem will chart the story of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee who is given a book of poetry of classic 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi. As the perils of her journey mount, the book becomes a magical gateway. The voice cast includes Mena Massoud, Millie Davis and Faran Tahir. WestEnd is handling international sales with ICM repping North American rights.
Tough Love: The Lennox Lewis Documentary chronicles the titular pugilist and three-time Heavyweight champion. Directed by Rick Lazes and Seth Koch, and produced by The Irishman exec producer Chad A. Verdi, the pic is market debuting in Cannes after being selected for the virtual Tribeca film festival. VMI is on sales.
Outside the Wire – Garrett Hedlund and Brady Jandreau are starring in Paxton Winters’ next feature about an American soldier and an Iraqi insurgent who find themselves dependent on each other for their survival. Zahraa Ghandour is also attached to star. Film Constellation is handling international rights with UTA Independent handling North America.
Sweet Dreams – Niamh Algar, Mia Goth, Billy Howle, Paapa Essiedu, Nick Frost and Aisling Bea are in the ensemble cast of this story from writer-director Carl Tibbets charting a series of unfortunate coincidences that bring the overreaching ambitions of a bunch of petty criminals to a nasty end. Matthew James Wilkinson is producing. AMP International is handling world sales.
Best of Deadline
Sign up for Deadline’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.