Matthew McConaughey and director Gus van Sant stopped by the Croisette on Thursday afternoon to pitch international buyers on their new drama “Sea of Trees,” which is scheduled to begin production on July 15.
The story follows a suicidal American (McConaughey) who befriends a man (Ken Watanabe) lost in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. The picture will have a budget of about $25 million, and negotiations are underway with Naomi Watts to play the female lead–the character of McConaughey’s wife. The project originated from Gil Netter (“Life of Pi”), who is producing with Ken Kao, above left with Van Sant, McConaughey and Alex Walton.
McConaughey said he was drawn to the poetic nature of the screenplay by Chris Sparling (“Buried”). “It was the best script I remember reading in the last five years,” said the actor who recently won the Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club,” noting that it “felt like a bunch of beautiful haikus, back to back. It was incredibly surprising. I got chills a few times just in the read of it.”
Van Sant said that the location of the shoot hadn’t been determined yet. “My latest feelings is to try to shoot in Japan,” the director said. “If it’s too difficult, we would probably go to the northwest in the States, where the land is very similar.”
The actor and director noted the film will have a surprise ending, which they compared to “The Sixth Sense” or “Fight Club.”
Alex Walton’s new shingle Bloom is representing international sales of the film. CAA and WME are handling domestic rights, with several studios already expressing interest including Lionsgate, according to Van Sant.