By Simon Dang | The Playlist February 15, 2011 at 2:10AM
A mere week ago, the name Megan Ellison wouldn't have even raised an eyebrow among the film community. Now she's pretty much the toast of the town -- at least ours anyway.
With the billionaire heiress set to save Paul Thomas Anderson's untitled religious drama and his adaptation of "Inherent Vice" among other things, she's now reportedly in final talks to pick up North American rights to Wong Kar-Wai's martial arts epic "The Grandmasters" which stars Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen and follows the story of artist Ip Man, best known as the mentor of Bruce Lee.
Ellison's Annapurna Productions evidently pulled a 'David and Goliath' over major distribution companies like The Weinstein Company, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics and Focus Features for the rights and are set to make a "significant financial commitments to the movie and its marketing." Wong, who took a break from shooting and brought 10 minutes of his film to exhibit at the EFM in Berlin on Friday, was reportedly impressed by Ellison's "personal touch and personal commitment to him and the film."
Ellison's ambition and taste is certainly something fresh in Hollywood, but she's wisely not extending her reach beyond her grasp. The plan is for Annapurna and Wong to partner with a distributor so don't be surprised if one those entities battling for the rights comes back into the mix; a smart move for the savvy investor and director to find seasoned hands to help bring the foreign language genre pic to theaters.
Just what else does Ellison and her just-as-film-savvy brother, David (a business school dropout who ended up at USC Film School), dip their toes in? Their respective companies, Annapurna and Skylar Productions, are behind recent films like the Coens' "True Grit," Andrew Dominik's adaptation of "Cogan's Trade," John Hillcoat's "The Wettest County," Brad Bird's "Mission Impossible IV," the upcoming dramedy "My Mother's Curse" with Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen attached to star as well as an upcoming film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange based on the New York Times Magazine article "The Boy Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," collaborating with "The Hurt Locker" scribe Mark Boal. Raise your glasses to the Ellisons!
Juggling potentially financially risky projects by the likes of Wong, Dominik and Hillcoat with a big franchise like 'Mission Impossible' certainly seems like a smart route to take -- so perhaps we're just worrying because we simply don't know any better -- but it's good to know the box office success of "True Grit" will play some part in what they've got coming. We're admittedly kind of excited for when we hear the Ellisons' name in the press again.
With "The Grandmasters" still in production a Cannes bow isn't looking likely, with a fall fest circuit run a bit more probable. [THR]