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Strand picks up ‘Twist’

Pic arrives ahead of Polanski's Dickens adaptation

Strand Releasing has picked up U.S. rights to Canadian actor-turned-director Jacob Tierney’s “Twist,” a modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic “Oliver Twist,” starring Nick Stahl and Joshua Close as Montreal rent boys.

Screened at the Venice and Toronto fests last fall, “Twist” was written by Tierney, who transposes the tale from Dickens’ crime-infested London to the gay hustler beat of the Quebec city.

Tierney’s modestly budgeted film arrives ahead of Roman Polanski’s $60 million “Oliver Twist” adaptation, which reunites the Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Ronald Harwood with many from the production team of “The Pianist.” The more traditional retelling of Dickens’ story starts shooting June 21 in Prague.

In “Twist,” newcomer Close plays Oliver, recast as a soulful foster home runaway drawn into the sex-for-sale trade, while Stahl (“T3: Rise of the Machines,” “Carnivale”) plays Dodge, a heroin-addicted reincarnation of Dickens’ Artful Dodger. Pickpocket maestro Fagin (Gary Farmer) is redrawn as the watchful overlord of a rent-boy stable.

“Twist” is a film “we are very proud to be associated with,” said Strand co-president Jon Gerrans. “It has a talented young director in Jacob Tierney, a powerful and moving performance by Nick Stahl and an uncompromising story; it’s a wonderful fit for Strand.”

Deal marks a reunion of sorts for Strand and Tierney, who previously was best known for his role as a child actor in Terence Davies “The Neon Bible,” released by the distrib in 1996.

The acquisition was negotiated by Gerrans with Jeremy Barber and Howard Cohen of UTA and producer Victoria Hirst. Strand is planning an early May release.

Recent Strand releases include “Party Monster” and “The Hebrew Hammer.” At Sundance, the distrib has the world premiere of bad boy filmmaker Bruce LaBruce’s terrorist-porn pic “Raspberry Reich” and the North American premiere of Mexican director Julian Hernandez’s “A Thousand Clouds of Peace.”

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