FilmNation pushes diversity

Glen Basner’s FilmNation Entertainment has closed a major territory on Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder,” which world-premiered in competition Sunday in Venice.

In a pre-fest deal, Japanese speciality distrib Longride acquired Japanese rights. Longride’s recent buys include Michael Haneke’s “Amour” and Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” FilmNation CEO Basner said at Venice he hoped to close the last key territory — the U.S., whose sales rights are repped by CAA — at the Toronto Film Festival, where “Wonder” receives its North American preem in a Gala screening.

Pre-sales on “Wonder,” some struck more than a year ago, include the world’s biggest foreign distribs: France’s Metropolitan, Studiocanal for Germany and the U.K., Italy’s RAI Cinema, Sun Distribution for Latin America and Nordisk for Scandinavia.

Bullish pre-sales show just how far FilmNation, the sales agent on “The King’s Speech,” has come in four years under Basner, a former Focus Features and the Weinstein Co. sales head. It’s now plowing into production under Aaron Ryder and selling a broad slate of auteur, genre and commercial titles.

FilmNation opens Toronto with “Looper,” Rian Johnson’s time-travel actioner, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. “By design, we always work very hard to have a diversified slate. In each foreign territory, we have multiple relationships, and we want to service those relationships effectively,” he said.

At Cannes, FilmNation had two competition players, John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era drama “Lawless” and Jeff Nichols’ redemptive coming-of-age tale “Mud.” Neither are straight commercial plays nor niche arthouse.

“Independent film has changed over the years and has become a more viable business,” Basner said. “Filmmakers are finding a way of making unique, distinctive films that are satisfying to broader audiences, not just the core arthouse one.”

Set in France and Oklahoma, “To the Wonder” stars Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko as a couple who love each other but can’t live with each other, Kurylenko said at Sunday’s press conference. Javier Bardem plays a priest doubting his vocation.

Malick’s latest is “a very different movie to ‘The Tree of Life,’ much more intimate, introspective, an exploration on how we love, how we may or may not fall out of love, as with their religious faith,” Basner said. “Coming after ‘The Tree of Life,’ I think a lot of people are interested in what Terrence Malick is doing next.”

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