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Comic-Con Aids Independents

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 3, 2009 at 11:46AM

Producer-turned-director Matthew Vaughn needs a hit. Layer Cake was a great audition piece, but Stardust was a flop. Much is riding on his next indie venture, the indie-financed $45 million action picture Kick-Ass, which no studio would finance. In an unusual move, Vaughn took 11-minutes of footage of the Hard-R movie (adapted by Jane Goldman from the Mark Millar comic) to Comic-Con, to rouse the fans. From the stage in the cavernous Hall H he exhorted them to vote with their thumbs. The plan: to boost its value with a North American distributor.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Producer-turned-director Matthew Vaughn needs a hit. Layer Cake was a great audition piece, but Stardust was a flop. Much is riding on his next indie venture, the indie-financed $45 million action picture Kick-Ass, which no studio would finance. In an unusual move, Vaughn took 11-minutes of footage of the Hard-R movie (adapted by Jane Goldman from the Mark Millar comic) to Comic-Con, to rouse the fans. From the stage in the cavernous Hall H he exhorted them to vote with their thumbs. The plan: to boost its value with a North American distributor.

The crowd gasped with surprise at clips from this audacious, smart action satire, which throws conventional expectations out the window: Nic Cage shoots at his 14-year-old daughter (Chloe Moretz)-- to teach her how to take a hit in a bullet-proof vest; a caped would-be superhero leaps off a tall building with a single bound--and plummets to his death. The movie is funny--but it's also the sort of crazy execution-dependent picture that distribs insist on seeing in full. Even if it plays great at Comic-Con. After the panel, Screen Gems and Lionsgate, the most likely distribs for this material, both said they planned to contact WME, which is manipulating the sale of the film and showed the movie in L.A. the following Tuesday at the DGA. At the moment, said a spokesman, "there is keen interest but no deal is done yet."

Vaughn is not alone in appealing to the Comic-Con hordes. On the 40th anniversary of both the Con and Monty Python, Terry Gilliam and his backer, Samuel Hadida, also brought footage from Cannes refugee The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, which still lacks an American distrib, although Gilliam says a deal is in the offing. Hadida also brought Solomon Kane, starring James Purefoy as the Robert E. Howard character. (There's some speculation that he's trying to bundle both films, which are going to Toronto, into one deal. At one time Sony Pictures Classics was also circling Parnassus.)

Joe Dante brought The Hole in 3D. Platinum and Hyde Park showed their Brandon Routh thriller Dead of Night, which is still seeking a North American release, with Omnilab Media supplying prints and ads. Comic-Con booked these films in order to help them find a home, said genre marketer and Comic-Con stalwart Jeff Walker.

"It's like a new festival," says press agent Michele Robertson, an early Comic-Con devotee who took the online fanboy media seriously--before the rest of Hollywood caught on.

Here's video from the Kick-Ass panel.

Here's a show-and-tell on Solomon Kane, and a shaky-cam trailer from the Con:

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Indies, Comic-Con, Comics, Action


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.