Studios give chase to ‘Lola’

Sony Pictures Classics at 20 - The Stories Behind the Movies

Young German producer Stefan Arndt had just finished shooting a crazy low-budget movie about a girl racing through the streets of Berlin when the phone rang in his shabby office. It was Michael Barker, in town and keen to meet.

“He was one of my heroes! We just had a small office in a back yard. We quickly called our directors to come in, bought cake, cleaned up everything,” Arndt remembers. “He came to see us for two hours, just speaking about old movies and film history. It wasn’t a business meeting at all. He didn’t even know we were making ‘Run Lola Run.’ That’s just the way he works.

“He’s the first and still the only one of these bigger names in the business who ever called up like that and came to see us.”

By the time Tom Tykwer’s debut launched at Toronto, it ignited a U.S. bidding war, and that visit was one of the reasons why Arndt was willing to trust Sony Pictures Classics with the movie.

In fact, Arndt and Tykwer arrived late in Toronto because their plane had been diverted to Chicago, where they hopped a flight to Buffalo, N.Y., and grabbed the last rental car to drive across the border. Their film had already screened when they showed up at their budget hotel, where they found the lobby crammed with big-shot buyers.

“We had 2 1/2 days with no sleep, being chased around Toronto,” he says.

In the end, it came down to Miramax vs. SPC, with Harvey Weinstein diverting from a trip to Los Angeles in a bid to seal the deal. But Arndt balked at committing Tykwer to a long production deal at Miramax and chose to go with Barker.

“We knew Michael before, and on that wonderful night when we made our decision, it’s (because) we trusted him.”

But when they took the film to Sundance, Arndt admits to a moment of doubt. “We came down to the breakfast room, and there was Michael Barker and everyone important, all reading the New York Times. Michael showed me a full-page ad they had taken for ‘Run Lola Run,’ and I lost all the blood in my head. I started shouting at Michael, ‘What have you done? You’ve spent more than our entire P&A budget!’

“But it turned out Michael knew about a special edition when an ad cost nearly nothing, and it just happened to come out during Sundance when everyone in the industry would be reading it. He knows every trick — it’s why he’s so incredible at what he does.”

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