By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com September 11, 2011 at 9:30AM
It's been a fairly quiet market for big film deals at Toronto so far, with the sole major sale -- that of "Shame" to Fox Searchlight -- having been in the works since Venice, and even then, the film reportedly only sold for a six-figure sum, the film's backers placing great importance on being able to release the film before the end of the year, uncut, with an awards push for star Michael Fassbender. But the slow start looks to be coming to an end, with plenty of films courting distributors, and the first of them looks to have found a suitor.
Variety report that CBS Films, the newest major distributor around, are in talks to acquire the U.S. rights to Lasse Hallstrom's comedy "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," which screened yesterday to mostly strong reactions. The film, produced by Lionsgate U.K. and BBC Films, stars Ewan McGregor as a scientist who's brought to the Yemen to, yes, help introduce salmon to the Highland waters of the country, but falls for the aide of the sheik (Emily Blunt). Kristin Scott Thomas and Rachael Sterling also star, while the script comes from "Slumdog Millionaire" scribe Simon Beaufoy.
Reviews suggest that the film's a pleasant experience, albeit one that's lost some of the satirical touch of Paul Torday's novel, which was a best-seller in the U.K. CBS Films have had a slightly rought first 18 months in the business, with none of their offerings so far making much of a box office impact, but they're moving towards a more acquisitions-heavy business model, having recently picked up the Daniel Radcliffe ghost picture "The Woman In Black" and the Colin Firth/Cameron Diaz caper film "Gambit," both of which they'll release next year.
Should the deal close (and there's no reason to suggest that it won't), there's no word on when the film might hit theaters, but it's unlikely to be before the end of the year; the film doesn't appear to be awards material, and even if it was, the company has no experience in the awards race. Still, if the film's as sweet as most reviews suggest, they may be on to a better thing here than they were with, say, "Extraordinary Measures" or "Beastly.