Bertolucci pickup tops Toronto spree

Lions Gate captures pic duo

TORONTO — Acquisitions activity moved into high gear in the final days of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival as Fine Line Features walked away with Bernardo Bertolucci’s intimate love story “Besieged” while Lions Gate Films picked up “The Red Violin” and “Last Night” from up-and-coming Canadian producer Rhombus Media.

Samuel Goldwyn Films also bought “Hurricane Streets” helmer Morgan J. Freeman’s sophomore effort “Desert Blue” which had its world premiere in Toronto.

Fine Line emerged as the victor for the North American rights to “Besieged” in a bidding war that included Lions Gate and Fox Searchlight, which distributed Bertolucci’s “Stealing Beauty.”

“We simply fell in love with this movie,” said Fine Line Features president Mark Ordesky.

A collaboration between the legendary Italian director and his wife Clare Peploe, “Besieged” stars Thandie Newton (“Beloved”) as a servant whose employer, David Thewlis (“Naked”), falls deeply in love with her.

Peploe shares screenwriting credit with Bertolucci and was also associate producer on the film, which was shot primarily in Italy.

The deal for “Besieged” was brokered on behalf of the director and the producers by Jeremy Thomas and Chris Auty of Recorded Picture Co. and Jeff Berg of ICM. Ordesky and senior vice president of business affairs Amy Gittleman negotiated for Fine Line.

Sweet sounds

The opening night film of the Toronto festival, “Violin” was directed by Montreal helmer Francois Girard and written by Don McKellar with Girard. The Canadian-Italian co-production, which pairs Rhombus with Mikado Film, traces the epic history of a distinctive fiddle over three centuries and across five continents. The multilingual pic, which toplines Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, McKellar, Sylvia Chang, Colm Feore and Jason Flemyng, had its world preem at Venice.

“The passion and commitment from Lions Gate for both ‘The Red Violin’ and ‘Last Night’ give us enormous confidence that the films are in the right hands,” said Niv Fichman, who produced both “Violin” and “Last Night.”

“Last Night” was written, directed by and stars McKellar.

Fichman and fellow Rhombus partners Sheena Macdonald and Daniel Iron negotiated the deal for the Toronto production company.

“Both films have a lot of heart and they come from the same creative team,” said Lions Gate Films president Mark Urman, who negotiated the deal for U.S. rights to “Violin” and “Last Night” along with Tom Ortenberg, vice president of Lions Gate Films Releasing. New York attorney John Sloss repped Rhombus.

Samuel Goldwyn, head of worldwide production John Manulis and Samuel Goldwyn marketing and distribution head Jeff Lipsky acquired “Desert Blue” from Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson of WMA Independent, which repped the filmmakers along with Daniel Rappaport from 3 Arts Entertainment.

“Blue” was produced by HSX Films/Ignite Entertainment. Andrea Sperling, Nadia Leonelli and Michael Burns were producers.

“Morgan and his talented team have created an ‘American Graffiti’ for this generation,” said Manulis.

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