Sony, Pedro turn ‘Bad’

Distrib acquires its fifth Almodovar-helmed feature

NEW YORK — Continuing the distrib’s most successful ongoing relationship with a foreign-language filmmaker, Sony Pictures Classics has secured North American rights to Pedro Almodovar’s next feature, “Bad Education,” which starts shooting in Spain this month.

The deal was closed Tuesday evening by SPC co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and senior VP of acquisitions & production Dylan Leiner, with Almodovar’s El Deseo banner and Focus Intl., which is handling international sales in certain territories. Negotiations reportedly began on the title before Christmas.

Acquisition will be the fifth Almodovar-helmed feature to be released by SPC, following “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “The Flower of My Secret,” foreign-language Oscar winner “All About My Mother” and “Talk to Her.”

Latter title, which won this year’s Academy Award for original screenplay, has now grossed more than $9 million at the U.S. box office and is still in theaters, with SPC predicting a final tally of $10 million.

Brand name

“His audience just keeps growing,” Bernard told Daily Variety. “He’s become a brand name just like Fellini, Truffaut and Bergman were in the ’60s and ’70s. Pedro is the only filmmaker to have emerged on that level since the early ’80s.”

“People don’t ask if you’ve seen ‘Talk to Her,’ they ask if you’ve seen the new Almodovar,” Barker said. “His personality is very much a part of his movies. He’s by far the most popular director we have with press; we get more interview requests for Pedro than for any other filmmaker.”

In addition to films directed by Almodovar, SPC released Mexican helmer Guillermo del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone” and at the Berlin fest earlier this year picked up Isabel Coixet’s competition entry “My Life Without Me,” both of which were produced by El Deseo.

“Over the last few years, Sony Pictures Classics has picked up all the films made by our production house El Deseo, but they have done so on a film-by-film basis,” said the director’s brother and producer, Augustin Almodovar. “It’s a very comfortable relationship. We feel they are very near to the El Deseo film family.”

Something different

“Bad Education” stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez and Daniel Gimenez Cacho. The story, set over various time frames, examines the consequences of religious schooling on two adult men. Location shooting is skedded in Madrid, in eastern Spain and in the northern region of Galicia.

“With every film, he does something different from what he’s done before.” Barker said.

Bernal is best known for breakout roles in “Amores Perros” and “Y tu mama tambien.” Martinez starred in Alejandro Amenabar’s “Thesis” and Julio Medem’s “Lovers of the Arctic Circle” and made a cameo appearance in “Talk to Her.” Gimenez Cacho has appeared in a number of Spanish and Mexican features, including Arturo Ripstein’s “Deep Crimson” and “The Virgin of Lust.”

(John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.)

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