Walking a Fine Line

Leigh's abortion film set for fall release

New Line Cinema has acquired North American distribution rights to Mike Leigh’s 1950s-set drama “Vera Drake.”

Deal continues New Line’s relationship with helmer Leigh, after the shingle released his 1993 drama “Naked,” which screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and won actor and director prizes for David Thewlis and Leigh, respectively.

“Drake” is expected to world preem at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the official lineup for which will be unveiled Wednesday.

Pic, which stars Imelda Staunton and an ensemble of actors including Jim Broadbent, Heather Craney and Phillip Davis, centers around a woman who cares for her sick neighbor and elderly mother and secretly visits women to help them induce miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies.

“It’s a very emotional and sympathetic film which deals with the very controversial issue of abortion,” said Michael Lynne, co-chairman and co-CEO of New Line. “I think it raises the debate to the level of asking how you deal with guilt and innocence in a society. It’s a very compelling piece.”

Even though pic was technically acquired by New Line, release is expected to go through specialty arm Fine Line Features sometime this fall.

Back in action

“Vera Drake” marks the first acquisition of a title to be released by that shingle in more than two years. Fine Line’s last pickup was Finn Taylor’s “Cherish” in 2002.

After a period of inactivity, Fine Line has recently showed its muscle in the specialty distribution arena via its distrib deal with HBO. Under that deal, Fine Line has released “American Splendor” and the Palme d’Or winner “Elephant.” It will next release the Sundance hit “Maria Full of Grace.”

Fine Line also acquired worldwide rights in September to John Waters’ upcoming “A Dirty Shame,” which is expected to go out via New Line in most territories.

Leigh was nominated for a director Oscar for “Secrets & Lies” and for screenplay on “Topsy Turvy.” His most recent feature was 2002’s “All or Nothing,” released Stateside by United Artists.

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