By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 18, 2013 at 10:56AM
After being essentially anointed the next Batman at the end of "The Dark Knight Rises," and leading sleeper hit "Looper," Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become one of the most in-demand leading men around. Indeed, "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Godzilla" are among the films he's turned down of late, while he recently joined the highly anticipated "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For." So it's understandable that distributors will be keeping a close eye on this one, especially with Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore also in the cast, and the film seemingly being a light rom-com ish look at a modern-day lothario. It's the sort of thing that could have the mini-majors throwing cash at it, but directorial debuts by actors don't always have the best track record. (Remember Mark Ruffalo's "Sympathy For Delicious" a few years back?) Someone will pick it up, but who, and how much they pay, will likely be dependent on the reviews.
Seemingly one of the more openly commercial pictures at the festival this year, the long-in-development "The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman" could be a sort of teen-friendly version of "Drive" -- stylish visuals, courtesy of commercials director Fredrik Bond, a mix of romance and violence, and an attractive, young-skewing cast including Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Rupert Grint and James Buckley, plus vets like Mads Mikkelsen and Melissa Leo. Unlike a coming-of-age story or low-key indie, 'Charlie Countryman' is a straight ahead genre flick, and one that is already an easier sell to whoever snaps it up. As always, how the film is received will be a big determining factor, but the script made the Black List (and helped attract this calibre cast for the first time feature filmmaker) and if the tricky balance of tones can be pulled off and Sundance audiences are receptive, we'd wager this could be one of the big sells of the festival.
A biopic always has some degree of curiosity value for distributors, but when it's one that promises all kinds of scurrilous sex and nudity, than that interest can skyrocket, and "Lovelace," the story of "Deep Throat" pornstar Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) promises exactly that. Seyfried leads a strong cast that includes James Franco, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Sharon Stone, Adam Brody and Wes Bentley, the subject matter is dramatic, and the film's been attracting attention from the tabloids and EWs of the world since it went into production, all of which suggests it could be a canny buy. There are cautionary tales with similar, earlier pictures ("The Notorious Bettie Page" made only $1.5 million back in 2006), but even if "Howl" directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman fail to deliver quality-wise, there's a certain exploitation value to the story that could make it a profitable pick-up.
Also Looking For Distributors: Other starry pictures looking for homes include David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche" with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch; Adam Scott-starring comedy "A.C.O.D"; Drake Doremus' "Breathe In" with Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones; "The Way Way Back" with Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell" and "Very Good Girls," which toplines Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen. Any of them have the potential to be one of the big buys of the festival.
There's also a lot of buzz around "The Spectacular Now," which someone like Fox Searchlight would be a good fit for, while a genre distributor like Screen Gems or Magnet could end up making a pretty penny with horror-comedy "Hell Baby." "The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister and Pete" has echoes of "Precious," which made a killing for Lionsgate, while "Toy's House" could be poised to surprise.
Lynn Shelton is back with "Touchy Feely," and given that IFC did well with "Your Sister's Sister," they may be keen to get her back in the fold. And it's worth keeping an eye on Jerusha Hess's "Austenland" with Keri Russell and Bret McKenzie. The film might seem like a throwback to a certain kind of '90s rom-com, but let's not forget how much money things like "Muriel's Wedding" and "Bridget Jones' Diary" made back in the day. Oh, and for the record, "Stoker," "The East," "Sound City," "jOBS" and "Upstream Color" all have distribution, VOD deals or self-releasing strategies already in place, so won't be part of the market. Finally, Anchor Bay snapped up "The Rambler" starring Dermot Mulroney just as the festival was getting underway.