By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 8, 2014 at 2:05PM
Heading into the Cannes market, Open Road Films has scooped up all U.S. rights to the political actioner "The Gunman," starring Sean Penn and directed by Pierre Morel ("Taken," "Transporter"). Even philanthropists have to collect a payday once in a while, so Penn seems to be following the Liam Neeson playbook--but has attracted a stellar ensemble around him including Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance.
Adapted by Pete Travis from leftist Jean-Patrick Manchette’s noir novel "The Prone Gunman," the Euro-thriller follows a former special forces mercenary suffering from PTSD (Penn) who wants to reconnect with his longtime flame (Jasmine Trinca)-- who has a husband (Bardem). Unfortunately various opponents are tracking our anti-hero as runs from Barcelona to London.
The Studiocanal-financed big-budgeter was produced by Penn, Joel Silver and Andrew Rona and executive produced by Adrian Guerra and Peter McAleese, and nabbed tax breaks from Spain.
Open Road's Tom Ortenberg closed the deal; past Open Road releases include recent "The Nut Job," "The Grey," starring Liam Neeson, "End of Watch," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, and Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects." Next up is Jon Favreau's "Chef" (May 9).
Meanwhile Lionsgate International will be in Cannes pre-selling Penn's next directing gig: "Last Face," set to star Bardem and Penn squeeze Charlize Theron, who hails from South Africa. To be shot in Africa this August, the tumultuous romance between the director of an international aid organization (Theron) working in Liberia and a relief-aid doctor (Bardem) is backed by River Road and Bill Pohlad, with Bill Gerber ("Gran Torino") and Matt Palmieri ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") also producing. Palmieri owns all rights with CAA and WME selling U.S. rights in Cannes. Adèle Exarchopoulos ("Blue Is The Warmest Color") is also on board as a journalist covering the humanitarian work done by doctors Theron and Bardem. Penn and Pohlad have collaborated before, on "Into the Wild" and "Tree Of Life."
Screenwriter Erin Dignam had a small role in Penn’s 1995 "The Crossing Guard." She also wrote "The Yellow Handkerchief" starring William Hurt, Maria Bello and Kristen Stewart.