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John Malkovich’s Mr. Mudd Boards Manuel Martin Cuenca’s ‘Brando’(EXCLUSIVE)

Lazona Films, La Loma Blanca, Filmax also back the Spanish director’s U.S.-shot road movie

CANNES — John Malkovich and Russell Smith’s L.A.-based Mr. Mudd has boarded “Brando,” the next film from Spain’s Manuel Martín Cuenca, a director who has grown into one of Spain’s preeminent auteurs.

Gonzalo Sálazar-Simpson’s Madrid-based production house Lazona Films (“Spanish Affair,” Días de Cine”) and Martín Cuenca’s own label La Loma Blanca produce the project from Spain. Julio and Carlos Fernández’s Spanish mini-major Filmax will distribute in Spain a project which marks maybe Martín Cuenca’s most international yet: an English-language road movie described as being “in the best traditions of  U.S. independent cinema,” Filmax said in a statement Wednesday.

Also handling international sales on “Brando,” Filmax has been introducing the title to buyers at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“This is my most personal and ambitious project,” said Martín Cuenca. He added that the film “will allow me to explore a different kind of love story; that of a man and his dog. A love so strong it can mend the wounded soul of our protagonist.”

“Brando” will be shot in the U.S. It follows on from Martín Cuenca’s “The Motive,” which marks a move, continued by “Brando,” towards broad audience entertainment after two unsettling titles: 2011’s measured family psychodrama“Half of Oscar” and 2013’s plush horror-romance “Cannibal.”

“The Motive” won at last year’s Toronto Festival a Special Presentations Fipresci Critics Prize from a Jonathan Rosenbaum-headed jury.

A sometimes laugh-out-loud dramedy about a would-be writer febrile obsession to write a great novel, however, unethical his methods, “The Motive” was also one of the best-received of Spanish movies screening last year in competition at San Sebastian, the world’s most important showcase for upscale Spanish movies.

“First there was ‘The Motive,’ which not only achieved great commercial success, but also wide acclaim at international markets and festivals,” said Ivan Díaz, Filmax head of international sales.

“Now comes ‘Brando,’ a very special project with arguably one of the best scripts we’ve ever had,” he added, saying that the “heartwarming” film’s quality will make it “competition material at the world’s most important film festivals.”

Founded in 2003, Mr. Mudd credits take in some highlights in more recent American independent cinema, such as “Juno” “Ghost World” and “The Importance of Being a Wall Flower.”

Backed by LazonaFilms and Filmax, “The Motive” also won a best actor Spanish Academy Goya Award for lead Javier Gutiérrez.

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