Telluride: Where Will Scott Cooper’s ‘Hostiles’ Land?

Telluride: Where Will Scott Cooper's 'Hostiles'
Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment

TELLURIDE, Colo. — It’s rare for there to be a hot acquisitions title in the Telluride lineup poised to make a mark on awards season, but Scott Cooper’s “Hostiles” fits the bill. The “Black Mass” director has returned with a potent, muscular western — made with an independent spirit outside the studio system — that has prospective buyers circling, as they have been for weeks. On a wave of positive critical notices coming out of the fest, Cooper and the film’s producers, John Lesher and Ken Kao, could have a lot more leverage than they did a few days ago.

“We just want someone who loves the movie,” Lesher said at a private dinner event for the film Sunday night. “It’s nice to be in that position [to be able to pick and choose].”

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Part of the fuss is a jaw-dropping performance from Christian Bale that easily ranks among the greatest he’s given, one that could become an instant Oscar contender in the right hands. It seems Cooper is uniquely capable of drawing out Bale’s very best work, as the actor’s performances in both “Hostiles” and 2013’s “Out of the Furnace” are natural, unfussy efforts that stand in direct contrast to some of the showier (though no less brilliant) portrayals he’s come to be known for.

Cooper helped usher Jeff Bridges to his first Oscar eight years ago for “Crazy Heart,” while Johnny Depp’s critically lauded work in “Black Mass” landed the embattled star a Screen Actors Guild nomination. And with Bale packing on the pounds (as well as sporting bleached eyebrows) for his portrayal of Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s upcoming political drama “Backseat,” audiences and Oscar voters would be staring at empirical evidence throughout the season of the actor’s staggering range. Indeed, Bale received a Telluride tribute this year that does a great job of showcasing that range.

“That was weird,” the notoriously private actor quipped at the dinner. It’s rare for him to agree to that sort of pageantry.

Also a stand-out is Rosamund Pike as a forthright woman who violently suffers loss in the film’s opening moments. Masanobu Takayanagi’s beautiful landscape photography and expressive interior lighting further establish the cinematographer as Cooper’s vital secret weapon, while Max Richter’s elegiac score adds considerably to the emotional heft of the picture. Nominations for all are on the table. But, again, it depends on who acquires the film.

Everyone from Annapurna Pictures to Netflix is rumored to be in the mix, and it’s clear Tom Bernard and Michael Barker at Sony Pictures Classics are interested, too, as they could be seen wooing Cooper at the annual Patrons Brunch Friday morning. None of the sales agents are in town, however, and Telluride isn’t an acquisitions festival anyway, so don’t expect any movement until Toronto, perhaps as early as next week.

“Honestly, I just make them,” Cooper told me. “It’s that experience that is most meaningful to me. I believe in the movie. Whatever comes will be.”

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  1. Conshimfee says:

    Cooper is well on his way to becoming one of the great directors.

  2. Paul says:

    Bale is one of the all-time greats. Better than Di Caprio, and certainly way better than a mediocre actor like Gosling.

  3. Chris L. says:

    Anyone but Netflix, please. This, from all descriptions (even the few non-raves) is a big screen movie.

    • Pat says:

      Cooper metioned quite recently that he thinks it’s unfortunate people don’t go to see movies in the theaters as much anymore so if he has any say in the distributor I doubt Hostiles will end up with Netflix.

      • blue439 says:

        You can still have a streaming outlet AFTER theatrical/awards have run their course. The reverse is not possible.

      • Your Average Film Fan says:

        Maybe if the overall experience of the big screens didn’t suck so much more people would want to see them there. Studios and distributors need to end the big screen monopoly and allow films to be streamed the day of release. They’d make more money in our house as there are many films we end up not seeing once we hear the word of mouth on them. I’d rather wait for them and watch in the comfort of home with our wide screen than put up with hassles, noise, inconvenience of the big screens. Big screen theaters are going the way of bowling alleys. They will still exist but something most people do for kitsch factor. On the rare occasion a film is worth seeing on a big screen we still debate whether it is going to be worth it or not.

      • jedi77 says:

        And while I agree with him, a Netflix deal will guarantee him an audience for the film, that he can’t even dream of.

        It’s really a rock and a hard place. Big screen immersion or a potential audience of more than 100 million?

      • Manu Delpech says:

        Selfish me: Netflix would mean getting to see it as soon as it releases, seeing as I don’t live in the US, and I have a feeling folks overseas will be waiting a while for this one. But really, the best would be Annapurna, but since Detroit bombed, and this one doesn’t seem like it has a lot of B.O potential, doesn’t seem likely.

        This seems too big for SPC?! Maybe Amazon, or Lionsgate (they have Wonder, but I don’t know if they’ll campaign for it, although it looks like it has the goods to go there).

      • That’s good to know, because I fear Netflix will ultimately screw over Mudbound in regards to awards potential. (Nevertheless, it still sounds excellent and has positive reviews to substantiate that. So I’m excited regardless.)

        I just wish they’d allow for a month-long theater-only period before making it available via streaming. How else do the expect to crack the market? If it’s shown at home first, it should be considered a TV movie instead.

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