Love story continues long-term partnership

SAN SEBASTIAN — Benicio Del Toro and U.S. producer Laura Bickford, partners on “Traffic” and “Che,” are teaming on “How the Light Gets In,” a contemporary love story set at four hotels in New York, London, Paris and Berlin.

Musician-novelist-screenwriter James Greer, who penned “Cleo” for Steven Soderbergh, has finished a screenplay, Bickford said at Spain’s San Sebastian Festival.

“How the Light Gets In” — a title taken from a Leonard Cohen song — is set up at Laura Bickford Prods. Del Toro will play a Chilean novelist living in Paris who falls in love. Bickford and Del Toro are now approaching directors.

“Benicio and I have a long creative partnership. We started developing ‘Che’ before ‘Traffic.’ I really wanted to develop something where he could be funny and romantic,” Bickford explained just before the European premiere of “Arbitrage,” which she produced.

Along with Del Toro, Bickford already has an adaptation of Jane Heller’s novel, “An Ex to Grind,” set up at 20th Century Fox with Del Toro and Cameron Diaz to star in the romantic comedy. Jeremy Garelick (“The Break-Up”) penned the screenplay.

Bickford also exec produced Del Toro’s second short as a director, “El Yuma.” Starring Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”) as a film student enjoying a drunken night on the town, it opens omnibus feature “7 Days in Havana,” which screens Monday at San Sebastian.

Multiple other movies are in development. Among them, Brett Easton Ellis is writing an English-language remake of Brazilian thriller “O Invasor” (The Trespasser). Bickford is also working on a project with Mexico’s Gerardo Naranjo (“Miss Bala”).

Bickford looks to make “director and actor-driven quality mainstream movies,” she said at San Sebastian. “There’s a new crop of directors that I’m really interested in.”

She rarely bucks a challenge. “Che” took 10 years from inception to screen.

“Arbitrage” was director Nicholas Jarecki’s first fiction feature. But its star, Richard Gere, liked Jarecki’s script, and Bickford brought to the table cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (“Carlos”), composer Cliff Martinez (“Traffic,” “Drive”) and editor Douglas Crise (“Traffic,” “Babel”).

Bowing in the U.S. Sept. 14 in theatrical and VOD, “Arbitrage” was the widest release ever for a day-and-date film. It also took the biggest-ever opening weekend B.O. gross for a day-and-date film: $2 million off 197 screens.

Results “prove there are people in the U.S. who are starved for adult movies that have a little meat on the bones,” Bickford said.

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