×

CANNES: How Tommy Lee Jones Financed ‘The Homesman’ (EXCLUSIVE)

U.S. businessman Peter Brant talks about funding the film

To finance “The Homesman,” a 1850s Western drama playing in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Tommy Lee Jones turned to some of his closest friends.

Jones sent his old polo-playing comrade Peter Brant a copy of the script for the movie that he wanted to direct and star in. Brant, a U.S. businessman who owns Interview Magazine and has financed five other films, including 1977’s “Andy Warhol’s Bad,” 1996’s “Basquiat” and 2000’s “Pollock,” was immediately impressed by the story of a claim jumper who embarks on a journey with three mentally unstable women.

“I thought it was an interesting film,” says Brant, who is a fan of Jones’ directorial debut, 2005’s “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” which also premiered at Cannes. “I just know he’s a very serious and sophisticated man. I could see he had a real passion for the subject matter.”

Brant said he agreed to finance about 65% of the film, which had a budget of less than $20 million. The rest of the money came from producer Brian Kennedy and executive producers Richard Romero and G. Hughes Abell.

International rights were sold to the France-based EuropaCorp. Brant said several U.S. studios have already expressed interest in domestic distribution (the film co-stars Hilary Swank, Hailee Steinfeld and Meryl Streep), though a deal likely won’t close until the film’s May 18 Cannes debut.

The Homesman,” based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout, was a project that had been kicking around Hollywood for years, with Paul Newman attached to star at one point. Jones was able to get it off the ground because he kept the budget small.

The movie was shot in the New Mexico, Nevada and Georgia, while Jones pulled double duty behind and in front of the camera. “I was always very impressed with Tommy’s ability to direct and the fact that he is in 90% of the movie,” Brant said. “To accomplish that is very difficult.”

Brant, who has since seen the movie about 30 times, first laid eyes on a rough cut in November. “I thought it had great moments,” Brant said. “I thought it was a bit long, because it was a first cut and there was no music in it. I was surprised by how much I liked it.”

About 40 minutes have since been trimmed for the version that will screen at Cannes. “I couldn’t be happier,” Brant said. “I think Tommy Lee Jones’ performance in the film is one of the all-time best.”

He predicted that the movie will eventually earn him a profit: “On a long-term basis, I do. It was a good deal for me.”

Like many in the movie business, Brant is alarmed at how studios are only investing in mega-blockbusters, without much regard for smaller stories that are struggling to compete in the independent film market. He wonders how young directors now can even get the chance to begin making movies.

“I think the larger companies really should be more active in distributing independent films, because that’s a feeder to the studio films that come later,” he said. “How many directors have started off in independent films? The big studios should support (the indie world) to get the talent to go further.” His own philosophy, he added, has been: “to look at films as backing a passion of a creative person.”

Brant got into the movie industry after he met Andy Warhol in the late 1960s, when he started buying his paintings. He recalls how passionate Ed Harris was to play Jackson Pollock, which persuaded Brant to finance the biopic. He names “Nebraska,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “August: Osage County” as some of his favorite movies of last year.

“I think everybody is looking for the big (tentpole) movie,” Brant added. “Film is deeper than that. It’s really one of our great art forms. If you look at the period in American filmmaking when it was one of our greatest exports, it’s certainly better to do that than to sell arms to the rest of the world.”

More Biz

  • Bert Salke and Jennifer Salke

    Feds Looked Into Amazon Studios Chief Jennifer Salke in College Admissions Scandal

    Federal investigators looked into Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and her husband, Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke, as they conducted a sprawling probe of cheating in elite college admissions, a source close to the case told Variety. It does not appear, however, that prosecutors will charge the Salkes in the case. The Salkes [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Big Blackout Looms as CBS, AT&T Go Down to Wire on Renewal Talks

    A blackout affecting CBS stations in major markets throughout the country looms as CBS and AT&T executives go down to the wire on negotiations for a retransmission consent deal covering 28 O&O stations. The sides have sparred publicly during the past few days as 11 p.m. PT Friday expiration of the previous contract approached. AT&T [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    ICM Responds to WGA Packaging Lawsuit: Claims are 'Baseless' and 'Absurd'

    ICM Partners has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed against four major talent agencies by the Writers Guild of America as part of the larger war between agencies and the guild over packaging fees on TV series and movies. The guild sued ICM, CAA, WME and UTA in California state court in April, [...]

  • New York City NYC Placeholder

    CityFM Podcast Takes a Deep Look at New York’s Music Scene (Listen)

    First among the many projects listed at the beginning of New York Music Month in June was a WNYE radio show and podcast called CityFM that promised to “explore the city’s music culture, emerging artists and trends, and upcoming events told through the lens of what’s happening around the city in Summer 2019.” And while [...]

  • Live Nation Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Live Nation)

    Live Nation Confirms Placing Tickets Directly on Secondary Market at Artists’ Request

    Representatives for Live Nation, the world’s largest live-entertainment company and owner of Ticketmaster, confirmed that it bypassed conventional channels and directly placed thousands of concert tickets on the secondary market upon artists’ request, in an article published in Billboard. In a statement shared with Variety, the company acknowledged that it has facilitated the transfer of [...]

  • Costume designer Michele Clapton

    Costume Designers Fashion a Plan to Fight for Pay Parity in Upcoming Contract Talks

    The Costume Designers Guild Local 892 is gearing up to fight for pay equity in its 2021 contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, establishing a pay-equity committee to raise awareness of the scale disparity between the mostly female CDG membership and the mostly male membership of the Art Directors Guild Local [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content