Cameras haven't yet rolled on How to Catch a Monster, actor Ryan Gosling's first film as a director, but it will be seen in Australian cinemas because a local distributor acquired the film at this month's American Film Market (AFM) in Los Angeles.
Gosling, in his early 30s, has appeared in about 20 feature films in roles big and small and it was Half Nelson, which earned him an Oscar nomination, that is generally regarded as his breakthrough film. Since then he has appeared in such films as Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, Drive, The Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
“I loved the script for the film and, while I don't want to sound like a love-struck teenager, when I met him he spoke so intelligently about the film and his vision for it,” said Hopscotch/eOne managing director Troy Lum about meeting and discussing How to Catch a Monster with Gosling at AFM. “He's a cool character and he's going to be a director with currency.”
Lum describes the script for the upcoming film, which the Canadian also wrote, as an “urban fantasy”. Ben Mendelsohn and Christina Hendricks, who worked alongside Gosling (pictured) in Drive, are both going to be in the film, he added. Hendricks, the sexy red-head from Mad Men, will play a character who works in a fetish club.
“I've bought one for the hipsters and one for more mature audiences who liked Mrs Henderson Presents and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” laughed Sydney-based Lum, referring to his second acquisition, Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears. The prolific Brit directed Mrs Henderson Presents and, soon after, The Queen.
Philomena tells of a woman searching for a son taken away from her years before and is written by both Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, who is in the cast alongside Judi Dench, who plays the title role.
“It's a dramedy, it's shooting now and it's beautifully written and based on a true story,” said Lum.
Each year, countries around the world, mostly those whose native tongue is not English, put forward one official entry for consideration in the best foreign language film category of the Academy Awards. Madman signed up for two such films at AFM, The Deep from Iceland and A Hijacking from Denmark.
“A Hijacking tells one of those stories you hear about on a regular basis, a kidnapping by modern day pirates in the waters off Somali,” said Madman's joint managing director, Paul Wiegard, who hopes it will have resonance for Australians because they occupy a nation surrounded by sea. “I see it as telling a story from a modern day battleground. It's almost an anti-thriller because it doesn't have the usual framings of a thriller.”
The Deep is based on the true story of a fisherman who spent 27 hours in the water after his boat capsized off the chilly waters in the North Sea off the coast of Iceland. He lived to tell the tale.
“The first international screening was in Toronto and I've had time to get perspective and think it is a strong piece of cinema,” said Wiegard.
The documentary Mademoiselle C, which concentrates on Carine Roitfeld, who left her decade-long role as editor-in-chief at Vogue Paris early last year to start the new fashion magazine CR, is Madman's third acquisition at AFM.
According to the sales agent, director Fabien Constant was given unprecedented access to construct this fly-on-the-wall account of the fashion industry and the creation of a magazine from the ground up. The film is in post-production and the many fashion icons expected to appear include Karl Lagerfield, Jean Paul Gaultier and Donatella Versace. Rumour has it that Cate Blanchett also gets a moment in the spotlight.
Another key Australian distributor, Transmission, acquired three films at AFM, including Bone Tomahawk, a horror Western starring Kurt Russell, Peter Sarsgaard and Jennifer Carpenter.
“Bone Tomahawk was the last script I read on the flight to AFM, thinking 'there is no way we are going to buy a western', but I loved it,” said Andrew Mackie, who runs the Sydney-based company alongside Richard Payten. “Qantas had inflight wifi so I emailed Hengamah immediately and told her how much we wanted to handle it for her. It's violent and raw but rarely does screenwriting impress so much. We had to have it."
Hengameh Panahi is head of Celluloid Dreams, a leading European sales agent of quality fare. (At AFM her line-up of recently finished films included the much admired Australian film Satellite Boy, written and directed by Catriona McKenzie and starring David Gulpilil. That film is about a small boy trying to save his home from developers.)
Bone Tomahawk goes into production in March and has cannibalistic cave dwellers as well as the kinds of characters you would expect to see in a Western. The film is the directorial debut of novelist S. Craig Zahler, who also wrote the script. Other directors are attached to other scripts he's written including Korean director Park Chan Wook (Oldboy) and Michael Mann (Collateral) from the US.
Transmission has also picked up the comedy Late Bloomer, which stars Elijah Wood as a sex therapist who goes through puberty at 30 years of age, and Le Weekend, a rom-com which has just gone into production overseen by Notting Hill director Roger Michell.
The former is directed by Randall Einhorn – who was behind the US remake of Australian hit series Wilfred – and is based on an adaptation of Ken Baker's very personal memoir Man Made: A Memoir of My Body.
Hanif Kureishi, who has previously written scripts for such films as My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, The Buddha of Suburbia and Intimacy, wrote the upcoming Le Weekend. It stars Jim Broadbent, Jeff Boldblum and Lindsay Duncan and is about a British couple who return to Paris in an attempt to rejuvenate their marriage, many years after spending their honeymoon in the French capital.
All these distributors, as always have their fingers crossed that the promise shown o the page translates to a compelling film – and that Australian audiences agree with them.