Phase 4 scores with hockey doc ‘Last Gladiators’

Company gets U.S. and Canadian rights to Alex Gibney's film

Phase 4 Films has acquired all U.S. and Canadian rights to Alex Gibney’s hockey documentary “The Last Gladiators,” which premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

Phase 4 will kick off the theatrical release in Canada in October with the U.S. following in early 2013.

Pic is a Jigsaw Production in association with Northern Lights Hockey.

Larry Weitzman, Jim Podhoretz and Gibney crafted the screenplay and produced the project, while exec producers include Barry Reese, Donald “Dee” Rizzo, Michael Messner, George Gund and Robert J. Brooks.

In “The Last Gladiators,” Oscar winner Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) takes an unprecedented look at the National Hockey League’s most feared enforcers and explores the career of Chris “Knuckles” Nilan, whose job was to protect his teammates, no matter the cost. For Nilan, this meant a shattered body, addiction to drugs, and harming the people closest to him. But in the process, he won the love of hockey’s holy city, Montreal, and helped the team win the Stanley Cup. Through interviews with hockey’s toughest players, the film explores what it means to enforce the unspoken code of the NHL.

Select engagements will feature a post-screening discussion with Nilan.

“We are thrilled to team up with Alex Gibney to provide audiences with an opportunity to see behind the curtain of the NHL. ‘The Last Gladiators’ is an incredibly inspiring, introspective and entertaining film that you will think about for a long time,” said Phase 4 prexy/CEO Berry Meyerowitz.

“I’m delighted that Phase 4 is releasing ‘The Last Gladiators,’ a story that revolves around the compelling character of Chris Nilan – a film I am enormously proud of,” added Gibney.

Deal was negotiated by Phase 4’s Larry Greenberg and Sam Posner with Josh Braun from Submarine and Anne Atkinson from Pryor Cashman on behalf of the filmmakers.