When Working Title’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” unspools on the Lido Monday, it will be more than just the world preem of a marquee property with a stellar Brit cast — it will be the shingle’s first pic in more than a decade without Universal or a U subsid.
True, the major helped develop the adaptation of the John Le Carre bestseller, but when it came to financing, U opted out, said Working Title co-founder Tim Bevan.
A Cold War espionage thriller helmed by Sweden’s Tomas Alfredson and toplining Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Tom Hardy was, seemingly, not the right mix for U to give a greenlight.
Enter European powerhouse Studiocanal, which fully financed the less-than $30 million pic.”They stepped up to the plate,” Bevan said.
Studiocanal, which has a longterm co-financing partnership with Working Title and U, recognized what is becoming symptomatic of the relationship between the studio system and indies: Studios are backing and distributing fewer pics, which means solid fare is falling into the arms of indies.
It’s also the first time in more than 10 years that Blighty’s most bankable shingle has had a film up for grabs in the open market, with Studiocanal handling worldwide sales.
“This meant that the picture was sold in most territories around the world and we made it with them being our studio,” said Bevan. “It reminded me of what it was like to be an independent again.”
Bevan said that because the pic straddles the commercial and arthouse worlds, “it has to be delivered in a very careful and measured manner and festivals become a more important thing.”
Working Title has had good results with early fall pics — “Atonement,” “Elizabeth” and “Burn After Reading” all preemed at Venice.
“We know what the independent market responds to,” Bevan said. “It’s kind of not independent at all. It responds to commerciality.”
When footage was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in February, U.S. distribs — indies and majors — were keen to get into the game.
“I knew we’d get a U.S. deal,” Bevan said. “I knew that we were going to get people to be interested in the film. But if Universal wanted it, I wanted them to buy it.”
U snapped it up shortly after the fest, with Focus now releasing. How will it play in the U.S? Bevan’s not sure.
“When you’re making a uniquely British story, you want to make it as honest to its cultural base as you possibly can,” he said. “If you start to try and compromise, people begin to smell a phony fish in the process.”