Weinsteins engage ‘Single Man’

TWC to release pic for 2009 awards season

In the first seven-figure buy of the Toronto film fest, the Weinstein Co. has picked up U.S. and German rights to “A Single Man.” The Tom Ford-directed adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel is fresh in from Venice, where Colin Firth won actor kudos.

Deal was made after an all-night negotiating session between distributors and Ford’s CAA agents, following a Monday evening premiere here that was heavily attended by indie distribs.

Those buyers massed at a post-premiere party at the Gardiner Museum, where Clive Owen was among the guests, and the film’s suitors included Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Miramax’s Daniel Battsek and Summit’s Rob Friedman.

At the fete, there was hope in the air that “Single” might break the deal-making logjam, and prod distributors to begin locking in distribution deals for a slew of available films that are showing at the fest with strong casts. There’s been no major showdown over a pic until Ford’s debut arrived yesterday.

While the pick-up prices and P&A commitments might be lower in the current buyer’s market, deals could materialize for acquisition titles such as Atom Egoyan-directed “Chloe,” Darwin drama “Creation,” Robert Duvall period drama “Get Low,” Brit thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” Demi Moore-David Duchovny-starrer “The Joneses,” Michael Douglas-starrer “Solitary Man,” Neil Jordan’s “Ondine,” Tilda Swinton-starrer “I Am Love,” Venice winner “Lebanon,” Helen Mirren period pic “The Last Station” (a Telluride fest entry), and gritty Michael Caine-starrer “Harry Brown.” Also getting interest were docus “The Art of the Steal.” Agents and buyers were beginning to feel that more deals might start to crystallize.

Among little other deal news Monday, IFC Films closed a U.S. distribution deal for “Valhalla Rising,” the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed period Viking epic.

“A Single Man,” which takes place in the 1960s and stars Firth as a gay British college professor attempting to cope with the death of his partner, seemed like the kind of film that could give a distributor a chance to enter the upcoming Oscar race, as critically acclaimed performances by Firth and co-star Julianne Moore are being called Oscar bait. The Weinsteins, of course, are famous for their awards maneuvering, so “Single” could be a good match. TWC plans to release the pic in a limited run to qualify it for the Academy Awards. Pic will then go out wider in early 2010.

If the fashion designer-turned-director Ford was feeling the pressure as dealmakers swirled around him, he did a good job of not showing it. Of course, he is accustomed to unveiling his creations on a runway and getting an instant reaction from the marketplace.

“Though I’ve gone through this with my collections in the past, this is so much more personal, and much more a reflection of my soul,” said Ford, who optioned the novel three years ago, and shot the film in just 21 days. “I felt more relaxed than I did at Venice. It was the first time I really could sit there and watch the film play to the audience. They reacted the way I’d hoped, in all the right places.”

While Ford was in mid-sentence, Suzanne Somers, trailed by a photographer, gruffly barged between director and interviewer, grabbing Ford, and signaling the shutterbug to snap away, capturing a surreal moment for posterity.

By the end of the evening, it was the Weinstein brothers who would grab hold of Ford and his debut film.

Said Ford, “I have always admired Harvey’s great passion for film. Harvey and I have talked about a collaboration for years, in fact, since our first meeting more than 10 years ago. I am ecstatic that we will finally be working together.”

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