Paul Schrader’s ‘The Card Counter’ Sells to Focus Features (EXCLUSIVE)

Paul Schrader photogrpahed at the PMC
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Focus Features strikes again.

The indie film company continued a torrid acquisitions streak, nabbing rights to Paul Schrader’s revenge thriller “The Card Counter,” one of the hottest titles available at this year’s Cannes Film Festival virtual market. “The Card Counter” is Schrader’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated “First Reformed.” The cast includes Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe.

It’s the latest splashy buy for Focus, which also recently nabbed James Gray’s “Armageddon Time” and Justin Chon’s “Blue Bayou” out of this new, coronavirus-mandated virtual Cannes.

“The folks at Focus are the best at what they do,” Schrader said in a statement. “Over the years I’ve been jealous of directors in the Focus fold. Now happily I am one.”

“The Card Counter” focuses on Tell (Isaac), a gambler, whose spartan lifestyle moving from one casino to the next is shattered when he is approached by Cirk (Sheridan), a vulnerable and angry young man seeking help to exact revenge on a military colonel (Dafoe). For Tell, helping Cirk may be a chance at redemption (a core theme in many of Schrader’s works), but the decision has unforeseen consequences.

Schrader, whose writing credits also include such iconic features as “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” wrote and directed “The Card Counter.” Martin Scorsese, who directed “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” as well as the Schrader-scripted “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Bringing Out the Dead,” will executive produce the film.

Focus Features will distribute the film in the U.S. and Universal Pictures International will distribute internationally in the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, ANZ, China, SE Asia (excluding Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and television), Japan, South Korea, Latin America and on various airlines.

Braxton Pope, Lauren Mann, and David Wulf produced the film. Other executive producers include William Olsson, Lee Broda, Catherine Boily, Joel Michaely, Ruben Islas, Stanley Preschutti, Kathryn Moseley, Tiffany Boyle and Elsa Ramo.

“At a time when many of us are left wondering whether it’s our circumstances that corrupt souls or if it’s corrupt souls that create the circumstances, no one can say for sure, but has anyone explored this more in film than Paul Schrader?” said Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski in a statement. “All of us at Focus can’t wait to hear and see what Paul has to say now more than ever before, and we’re very proud to help him bring this story to the world.”

HanWay films represented the international sale of the film. Schrader’s rep, David Gonzales, and Endeavor Content handled the U.S. sale

Isaac is represented by WME and Inspire Entertainment, Haddish by Artists First and UTA, Sheridan by Mosaic and WME, and Dafoe by CAA and Circle of Confusion. Schrader is represented by David Gonzales. Both Sheridan and Isaac are also represented by attorney Mitch Smelkinson. The production is represented by attorney Joseph Lanius.