Polygram Filmed Entertainment isn’t going down without a fight.
In a further demonstration of the unusually high level of activity as Seagram Co. prepares to either absorb or sell the studio, PFE’s specialized division Gramercy Pictures has picked up all North American rights from Summit Entertainment to Guy Ritchie’s British comedy-thriller “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
Pic, which was written and directed by first-timer Ritchie and produced by Matthew Vaughn, is a London-set gangster drama about a group of streetwise cockney hustlers who have to come up with $500,000 after they lose a card game.
“Lock” stars young Brit thesps Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham and Nick Moran, along with Sting and soccer star Vinnie Jones.
Executive producers on the pic are Steve Tisch, Trudie Styler, Peter Morton, Angad Paul and Stephen Marks.
Summit, headed by Patrick Wachsberger, acquired worldwide rights outside the U.K. to “Lock” at the recent Cannes Film Festival. Polygram already owned U.K. rights.
“I already had read the script and we had been tracking the film for a while,” Wachsberger said. “We negotiated the deal during the festival.”
Gramercy made its U.S. deal after several high-powered screenings last week organized by Summit, including one in L.A. that was attended by Tom Cruise, Sting and Tisch. Cruise, who had his breakthrough role starring in the Tisch-produced “Risky Business,” is understood to have tubthumped the pic to several distribs — even though he has no direct connection to the film.
In addition, Cruise and Paula Wagner’s C/W Prods. has English language remake rights to Summit/Artisan’s Spanish pic, “Open Your Eyes.”
Despite interest from other buyers, including Miramax and Artisan Entertainment (which has a stake in Summit), Wachsberger said he believed Gramercy was the best home for it, citing the distrib’s success with various offbeat pics, including “The Usual Suspects” and “Fargo.”
“This picture is a lot of fun, and there’s a sting at the end,” said Wachsberger. “It’s a ‘Lavender Hill Mob’ for the ’90s.”
PFE creative affairs and acquisitions veep Shauna Hellewell recommended the film to the company. Then PFE president Michael Kuhn, senior vice president Zanne Devine and Gramercy prexy Russell Schwartz attended a screening.
PFE’s Rick Finkelstein and Devine negotiated the deal with Wachsberger.
The deal is one of many that PFE production offshoots have concluded in the last six weeks. Others include several book acquisitions at Scott Free Prods., and greenlit pictures moving forward at Propaganda, Interscope and Revolution Films.
As a result of the attention being given to his debut film, Ritchie has emerged as a hot commodity among studio execs, with several companies said to already be lining up to work with him on future projects.
Ritchie and Vaughn are repped by ICM’s Duncan Heath in London and Robert Newman in Los Angeles.