Focus is on ‘Guys’ rights

Toronto-buzzed pic adapted from Nelson legiter

NEW YORK — Universal-based Focus Features has acquired all worldwide distribution rights from ContentFilm to Jim Simpson’s 9/11-themed drama “The Guys,” which stars Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia.

The pic sparked widespread distrib interest after its world premiere at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival on Sept. 11. Focus plans to release the film later this year.

Shot on location in Gotham, pic stems from the Anne Nelson original play. It was produced by Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente of Open City Films; the company’s Gretchen McGowan co-produced. Simpson and Nelson penned the screenplay.

ContentFilm chairman Edward Pressman and prexy John Schmidt exec produced along with Bonnie Timmermann, who brought the play to ContentFilm’s attention. Content fully-financed the feature, its first production since launching at last year’s Toronto fest.

A portion of the film’s proceeds will be set aside to benefit the families of New York City firefighters.

Popular legit draw

“The Guys” was a popular draw at Gotham’s Flea Theater in downtown Manhattan, which commissioned the play. Based on Nelson’s personal experiences after the 9/11 tragedies, play and film center on a Gotham journalist called upon to help a fire captain write a series of eulogies for the men he lost at the World Trade Center. The two come to bond in their grief and hope.

ICM packaged the deal along with Content’s Michael Roban.

Simpson, Flea’s artistic director, helmed the first stage production, which starred Weaver and LaPaglia. The play is still being performed at the Flea and also has been staged in Los Angeles, Edinburgh and Dublin.

“‘The Guys’ was a true labor of love for all of us at Open City,” said Kliot and Vincente, whose offices are just blocks from the WTC.

Added Focus Features toppers David Linde and James Schamus, “We saw the film, were tremendously moved by its resonance and immediately wanted to distribute it.”

Inaugural prod’n

Pressman and Schmidt said, “Since ‘The Guys’ was the inaugural production for ContentFilm, we were sure to take our time finding the right home for the picture. Focus understands the film, has great respect for the genesis of the project, and is committed to giving it a proper launch.”

Well-known in Gotham for both their Open City and digital division Blow Up Pictures, Kliot and Vicente have produced such films as Tony Bui’s award-winning “Three Seasons” and Miguel Arteta’s “Chuck & Buck.”

Timmermann, who recently struck a producing deal with RKO Pictures, is known for her years as one of Gotham’s top casting mavens. She has cast such films as Michael Mann’s “The Insider,” Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” and Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show.” She was a producer on the worldwide productions of the Mike Nichols’-directed play “Death and the Maiden” and the Roman Polanski film based on the play.

ContentFilm’s initial features, all currently in post-production, include Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s “Party Monster,” starring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, and Wayne Kramer’s “The Cooler,” starring William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin.

Current and upcoming Focus Features releases include Francois Ozon’s “8 Women” and Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven,” starring Julianne Moore.

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