The Hollywood Reporter – May 16, 2017

 As insiders grumble about the lack of A-listers on the lineup, dealmakers are optimistic about Marche titles with the likes of Johnny Depp, Margot Robbie and Alicia Vikander.

The 70th Cannes Film Festival is a bit light on star power this year (Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman excepted), but what the fest lacks in red carpet wattage is more than made up for at the market, which, after years of slim pickings and second-tier stars, is once again lousy with A-listers.

The above-the-line talent attached to the upcoming projects this year reads like a studio playlist: Zac Efron, Margot Robbie, Johnny Depp, Amy Schumer, Jake Gyllenhaal and Alicia Vikander all have new films on offer. And buyers are aflutter over the prospect, still unconfirmed, of a possible Will Smith project, a terrorism-themed film that, if it pans out, would be the first time in decades that a Smith film would be available to independent buyers.


“There’s a lot on offer, both big mainstream films with stars and smart art house projects,” says Timm Oberwelland, managing director of German distributor Tobis Film. “As long as people don’t expect studio price tags to go along with the studio-sized names, it should be a good market.”

The return of stars to the indie world is, in part, a natural consequence of a shift in the strategy of the major studios. With an increasing focus on franchise pictures where the real star is not the talent but the brand — Star Wars, The Fast and the Furious, Transformers — top-tier names are moving into the indie sphere to get their more ambitious projects made. The shift dovetails nicely with pent-up demand, particularly in the international marketplace, for star-driven projects that can open theatrically — a demand that has surged as distributors have come under increasing competitive pressure from online streaming companies such as Netflix.

“Buyers are hungry, definitely,” says Tamara Birkemoe, president of Foresight Unlimited, whose Cannes lineup includes The Last Full Measure, a Vietnam War drama starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, Ed Harris and William Hurt. “They’ve become more selective, but they need content with recognizable names that they can put into theaters.”


But star power alone will not be enough to guarantee sales in Cannes, much less box-office performance down the line. Depp has two new projects at the market this year — the dark comedy King of the Jungle from CAA and IMR International, and IM Global’s comedic drama Richard Says Goodbye — but after the so-so performance of much of Depp’s indie work, including Mortdecai and The Rum Diary, buyers are cautious.

“People are saying if it’s Depp without Pirates of the Caribbean or Tim Burton, keep away,” says one European distributor.

“A star cannot save a movie,” she adds. “If the script isn’t good, then the movie won’t be good,” agrees Ukrainian Film Distribution’s Polina Schlicht, pointing to another star vehicle on offer at Cannes whose promotional footage was underwhelming (she wouldn’t reveal the title).

“Buyers have gotten pickier, that’s definitely the case,” says Radiant Films’ Mimi Steinbauer, who is bringing Roger Donaldson’s period drama The Guinea Pig Club, starring Richard E. Grant and Jeremy Irvine, to Cannes this year. “You can’t just slap together a bunch of names and sell the project, which honestly you could in the past. But there is absolutely a market for good stories with good talent. I’m optimistic going into this Cannes. Plus, the weather this year is fantastic, and that always helps.”

<em>From left: Alicia Vikander, Johnny Depp, Margot Robbie, Zac Efron and Jake Gyllenhaal</em>
Getty Images
From left: Alicia Vikander, Johnny Depp, Margot Robbie, Zac Efron and Jake Gyllenhaal

Deadline – April 4, 2017

Amy Madigan and Peter Fonda are joining what has turned out to be an impressive ensemble cast for writer-director Todd Robinson’s The Last Full Measure. LisaGay Hamilton (Take Shelter) and Robert Pine (CHIPS) also have boarded the film about the cover-up and ultimate sacrifice and heroism of a 21-year-old kid from Piqua, OH.

The project is based on a true story. It follows a young Pentagon investigator as he unravels the injustice and battles the political machine to uncover what really happened in one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. The investigator and survivors of the battle — the veterans of Operation Abilene — finally persuade Congress to award the Medal of Honor to Air Force Pararescue Jumper William Pitsenbarger, who continued to save lives after the last helicopter to safety left the battlefield. He single-handedly saved more than 60 men before he was killed.

Madigan and Fonda will star alongside Samuel L. Jackson, William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, Sebastian Stan (who plays the investigator), Bradley Whitford, Grant Gustin, Michael Imperioli, Linus Roache and Alison Sudol. The project is in production.

Timothy Scott Bogart, Mark Damon, Nicholas Cafritz, Robert Reed Peterson, Shaun Sanghani, Julian Adams, Lauren Selig, Pen Densham and John Watson are producing. Tamara Birkemoe, Jenna Sanz-Agero, Sidney Sherman, Louis Steyn and T.J. Steyn are executive producing.

Foresight Unlimited is handling international sales and producing in association with Provocator and SSS Entertainment. Foresight Unlimited’s slate also includes Rob Cohen’s Category 5; Michael Mailer’s Blind, starring Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin; the Neil Bogart biopic Spinning Gold, starring Justin Timberlake; and Peter Segal’s $130M sci-fi epic Inversion.

Madigan recently wrapped production on Sam Shepard’s Buried Child with her husband Ed Harris in London. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in Twice in a Lifetime.

Fonda was nominated for two Academy Awards, including for his leading role in Victor Nunez’s Ulee’s Gold. He most recently starred in Tommy O’Haver’s The Most Hated Woman in America alongside Melissa Leo for Netflix and is in postproduction on Shana Feste’s Boundaries starring Vera Farmiga. He also recently completed a starring role opposite Bill Pullman and Jim Caviezel in the Montana-based Western The Ballad of Lefty Brown.

Hamilton most recently starred in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace with Amanda Seyfried. She was also in Jake Goldberger’s Life of a King starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Pine next will be seen in Bruce Caulk’s Minkow starring Mark Hamill, Elisabeth Röhm and James Caan.

Madigan is repped by Anonymous Content and Don Buchwald & Associates. Fonda is with Pure Arts and Untitled Entertainment. Hamilton is repped by APA and Pine by House of Representatives.

Deadline – March 28, 2017

Foresight Unlimited has set The Flash star Grant Gustin to join The Last Full Measure, the political drama that Todd Robinson will direct from his script. Shooting on the film begins this weekend in Atlanta and Costa Rica. Gustin will play actual Medal of Honor recipient William Pitsenbarger, a special forces Para-rescue Jumper who is pivotal to the plot. He joins Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Whitford, Michael Imperioli and Linus Roache.

 Stan plays the lead role of a young Pentagon investigator Scott Huffman as he battles the political machine in Washington. He reluctantly teams with veterans of Operation Abilene to convince Congress to award the Medal of Honor to a courageous Air Force medic, Pitsenbarger (Gustin), who is seen saving the lives of over 60 Marines ambushed in one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. As the battle waged on, and after the last helicopter left, the soldier kept saving lives until he lost his own.

The film is produced by Timothy Scott Bogart, Mark Damon, Lauren Selig, Julian Adams, Pen Densham, John Watson, Nicholas Cafritz, Robert Reed Peterson, and Shaun Sanghani. Tamara Birkemoe, Jenna Sanz-Agero, Sidney Sherman, Louis Steyn and T.J. Steyn executive producing. Foresight Unlimited is handling international sales and producing in association with Provocator and SSS Entertainment.

Gustin is repped by WME and Robert Stein Management, will next be seen on the big screen in the William H. Macy-directed Krystal opposite Rosario Dawson, Felicity Huffman, Nick Robinson and Kathy Bates.