Studio to release Bush drama on Oct. 17

Lionsgate has acquired North American distribution rights to “W,” the Oliver Stone-directed drama about the life and formative years of President Bush.

The film has been set for release on Oct. 17, giving the picture three weekends in theaters before the Nov. 4 presidential election.

Shooting begins May 12 Monday in Louisiana.

Josh Brolin stars as the title character, and the cast includes Elizabeth Banks (Laura Bush), James Cromwell (George H.W. Bush), Ellen Burstyn (Barbara Bush), Thandie Newton (Condoleezza Rice), Jeffrey Wright (Colin Powell), Scott Glenn (Donald Rumsfeld) and Ioan Gruffudd (Tony Blair). Stone is still casting veep Dick Cheney.

“We don’t really know much about Mr. Bush beyond the controlled images we’ve been allowed to see on TV. This movie’s taking a bold stab at looking behind that curtain,” Stone said in a statement. “I’m real pleased that Lionsgate has the independence necessary to bring this provocative story to an American audience.”

Distribution deal was made by Tom Ortenberg, Lionsgate president of theatrical films. , who said, “With `W,’ (Stone) again demonstrates his creative vitality and genius for speaking to our times.”

Lionsgate will also distribute in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

Because of the subject matter and director, “W” has garnered headlines from the moment Daily Variety first disclosed that Stone and producer Moritz Borman were shopping the Stanley Weiser (“Wall Street”) script with the intention of making the film before the president leaves office (Daily Variety, Jan. 21).

The picture became a reality when Bill Block’s QED Intl. stepped up to finance. Block, who will produce with Borman and Jon Kilik, said they had discussions with major studios, but getting financing and distribution from independent companies was the ideal way to keep Stone from being creatively compromised.

The film will have an under-$30 million budget, and QED found its funding partners offshore. Albert Yeung and Feron Lau of Hong Kong-based Emperor Group; Thomas Sterchi of German-based Condor Films; and Johnny Hon, Adam Palin and Teresa Cheung of Shanghai-based Global Entertainment Group bankrolled the film with QED Intl. Australia-based Omnilab Media’s Christopher Mapp, David Whealy and Matthew Street are providing the P&A funding for “W.”

QED Intl. will sell remaining territories at Cannes beginning next week.

“We put together an international consortium of distributor-investors who, like us, were determined to back Oliver’s vision and see it executed without interference,” Block told Daily Variety. “We didn’t go to studios until we had a financing structure in place because we didn’t want the issue of changes or request for changes to be a condition of distribution.”

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