That was fast, although not unexpected. After excellent reviews out of Venice and Telluride (see our Lido review here), Fox Seachlight has picked up the North American domestic rights to "Shame," the follow-up, sophomore directorial effort by British artist-turned-director Steve McQueen.
Starring Michael Fassbender ("X-Men: First Class") and Carey Mulligan ("An Education"), the risque drama centers on the self-destructive tendencies of an out-of-control sex addict in New York (Fassbender), who's already complicated life is turned upside down when his mentally unstable sister and would-be singer (Mulligan) makes an unannounced visit.
Most accounts, and our review included, have posited that the sexually graphic film is possibly headed for a NC-17 rating, but since Searchlight will be releasing the picture later this year with Oscar acting hopes attached, the film does run the risk of receiving cuts in order for it to attain some traction with both audiences and Oscar voters (Update: Searchlight says they won't be cutting the picture and while its currently unrated, expect that the picture will likely be NC-17).
Several studios were said to be circling the picture including The Weinstein Company, who scored big last year with the Academy upon the release of the audience-friendly "The King's Speech." With "W.E." receiving wide-pans in Venice, the company is without an Oscar thoroughbred this year aside from December's "Iron Lady," so we assumed the Oscar-hungry studio would aggressively court the picture, but it was not to be.
Fox Searchlight is sitting very pretty this year with several Oscar hopefuls including "Martha Marcy May Marlene," which could score itself an Oscar nom for breakout star Elizabeth Olsen, and Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," which should easily earn star George Clooney an Oscar nom and seriously vie for Best Picture and even possibly director.
With "Shame," the sure bet is positioning Fassbender for Best Male, and possibly Mulligan for Best Supporting Actress. Our review from Venice praised the film for the “tour-de-force performance” by Fassbender, a "superb, equally damaged" portrayal from Mulligan and an exhibition of “absolute control and discipline shown by McQueen throughout.”
"Shame" is the second collaboration between Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, the latter of which turned into an overnight star in casting and industry circles for his harrowing portrayal of an IRA hunger strike prisoner in the 2008 picture, "Hunger" (the film was released Stateside in early 2009).
Following the release of that equally provocative and critically acclaimed picture, Fassbender quickly snatched up roles in films by Quentin Tarantino, Matthew Vaughn, Ridley Scott and Steven Soderbergh in quick succession.