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The (Extra Hot) Cannes Hot List: Nic Cage, Kristen Stewart and Paul Rudd Films to Heat up the Market

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The Cannes Film Festival is bracing for what could be its most disruptive edition in decades, with freelance festival employees threatening strike action that could derail the opening night ceremony, and the entire French industry on tenterhooks ahead of an expected new wave of #MeToo allegations against some of the country’s biggest stars, including a few with films in competition this year.

Well, at least the market looks promising. Judging by the number and quality of projects pitching at the 2024 Cannes film market (May 14-22), this could be a banner year for the Marché du Film.

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“The pre-sales market is back in a big way,” notes Janina Vilsmaier, senior vp of sales and distribution at Protagonist Pictures, whose Cannes slate includes Simon Curtis’ best-agers comedy Encore starring Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Henry Winkler, and Don Johnson, and Jimpa, the upcoming feature from Good Luck to You, Leo Grande director Sophie Hyde about a trans non-binary teenager visiting their gay grandfather, and starring Olivia Colman and John Lithgow. “International buyers really want to plan their slates and are buying for 2025 and 2026, looking to lock in films before the studios or streamers come in to snatch them up,” says Vilsmaier.

Global distributors will have a lot to pick from this year. Alongside the truly big swings — Kevin Costner’s western epic Horizon: An American Saga and Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis — there is a healthy diet of action flicks (Vin Diesel’s Riddick: Furya from Rocket Science, A Higher Standard’s Head Games with Samuel L. Jackson and Henry Golding), mainstream dramas like John Lee Hancock’s Monsanto and Peter Farrelly’s I Play Rocky (CAA Media Finance and FilmNation, respectively, and arthouse/genre cross over like the Kristen Stewart/Oscar Isaac vampire flick Flesh of the Gods from XYZ Films or Julia Ducournau’s Titane follow-up Alpha from FilmNation and Charades.

The still-hungry international market is a welcome change from the U.S., where securing a sale remains a challenge for indie features (the list of still-unsold festival hits is a long one). “Aside from Lionsgate, there’s almost no one [in the U.S.] who wants to buy a mainstream or genre-focused indie film,” laments one international sales exec.

As for what the domestic distributors do want, the big sellers out of Sundance were uplifting comedies and documentaries, like My Old Ass landing at Amazon MGM for $15 million and the Will Ferrell road trip doc Will & Harper landing at Netflix in a reported record-breaking deal. “For buyers that have a backbone, this is the moment to take chances. If we keep giving people the same thing, at some point, there’s going to be another pendulum swing with people saying, ‘Okay, enough of the happy endings,’” says Christine D’Souza Gelb of Past Lives producer 2AM, which handles indie sales, working across financiers and studios.

Here’s a look at 21 titles in what is shaping up to be one of Cannes’ buzziest markets in years.

Alpha

DIRECTOR Julia Ducournau
STARS Golshifteh Farahani, Tahar Rahim
THE BUZZ Ducournau’s follow-up to her Palme d’Or-winning Titane is certain to set specialized distributors aflutter with anticipation as to where France’s most unpredictable filmmaker will go next. Plot details are still under wraps, but Ducournau’s track record, combined with the A-list art house cred of stars Farahani and Rahim, should help convince buyers to take the plunge.
SALES FilmNation Entertainment, Charades

Alpha Gang

DIRECTORS David and Nathan Zellner
STARS Cate Blanchett
THE BUZZ Hot off the Sundance success of Sasquatch Sunset, their wacky version of a Bigfoot movie, the Zellner brothers are promising a twisted take on the 1950s alien invasion movie, with double Oscar winner Blanchett as the extraterrestrial boss sent to conquer Earth. Speciality buyers, for one, will be happy to welcome these new alien overlords.
SALES MK2, CAA Media Finance

The Bookie & The Bruiser

DIRECTOR S. Craig Zahler
STARS Vince Vaughn, Adrien Brody
THE BUZZ Fans of the nasty genre films Bone Tomahawk director Zahler excels in have had a long wait since the director’s 2018 feature Dragged Across Concrete. But this new feature, a 1950s-set gangster tale featuring Vaughn and Brody as battle-scared WWII vets who go up against both the Irish-American and Italian Mafias, promises all the bloody action a Zahler fan could hope for.
SALES Anton, UTA Independent Film Group, Range Media Partners

California Schemin’

DIRECTOR James McAvoy
STARS James McAvoy, Samuel Bottomley, Séamus McLean Ross
THE BUZZ McAvoy’s directorial debut has one of the most original pitches of the year. Based on a real-life story, it follows two Scottish lads who conned the international music industry by putting on American accents and pretending to be rap duo Silibil N’ Brains. The story has already been told in 2013 SXSW documentary The Great Hip Hop Hoax.
SALES Bankside and UTA Independent Film Group

The Carpenter’s Son

DIRECTOR Lotfy Nathan
STARS Nicolas Cage, FKA Twigs, Noah Jupe, Souheila Yacoub
THE BUZZ It wouldn’t be a market hot list without a Nicolas Cage vehicle, and this feature promises to be (among) the weirdest Cage projects on offer: the story of the childhood of Jesus Christ. Told as a horror film. Cage plays The Carpenter, Noah Jupe is The Son, and his Honey Boy co-star (and Grammy-nominated artist) FKA twigs is The Mother.
SALES Goodfellas, Anonymous Content, WME

Encore

DIRECTOR Simon Curtis
STARS Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Henry Winkler, Don Johnson
THE BUZZ Close and Irons reunited 34 years after Reversal of Fortune in this comedy about former Broadway stars struggling with life in a retirement home who decide to do what they do best: put on a show. With a dearth of best-ager films on the market, sales for this charmer should sing.
SALES Protagonist Pictures

Flesh of the Gods

DIRECTOR Panos Cosmatos
STARS Kristen Stewart, Oscar Isaac
THE BUZZ The filmmaker who brought audiences a blood-splattered Nic Cage in Mandy will now bring us a blood-sucking Stewart and Isaac in this vampire drama set in 1980s Los Angeles. Se7en writer Andrew Kevin Walker and Adam McKay are also behind the project that offers a starry, off-the wall genre film currently favored by specialty outfits like Neon and A24.
SALES CAA Media Finance, WME Independent, XYZ Films

Good Luck, Have Fun, Don’t Die

DIRECTOR Gore Verbinski
STARS Sam Rockwell, Haley Lu Richardson, Michael Peña, Zazie Beetz, Juno Temple
THE BUZZ This high-concept time-travel adventure tale from Pirates of the Caribbean director Verbinski sees Rockwell play a man from the future who recruits an eclectic group of patrons from an L.A. diner to join him on a one-night quest to save the world.
SALES North.five.six, CAA Media Finance, Gersh

I Play Rocky

DIRECTOR Peter Farrelly
THE BUZZ The new feature from Green Book director Farrelly is the true story of the making of Rocky. Even without an actor attached to play Sly Stallone, that pitch should be enough to get the buyers bidding.
SALES FilmNation Enter

Late Fame

DIRECTOR Kent Jones
STARS Willem Dafoe, Sandra Hüller
THE BUZZ May December producer Killer Films and screenwriter Samy Burch are back at Cannes with this drama about an aging poet (Dafoe) whose work is rediscovered by a group of young New York artists, including a mercurial theater actress (Hüller).
SALES WME Independent, UTA Independent Film Group, Cinetic Media, MK2 Films

Megalopolis

DIRECTOR Francis Ford Coppola
STARS Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito
THE BUZZ While an early screening in L.A. for studio executives led to some head-scratching reports, there is no denying the star power of a Coppola-directed A-list ensemble (albeit one with a hefty price tag). The long-awaited movie from the Godfather director takes place in a New York-like city where dueling visions for how to rebuild after a disaster create factions.
SALES Goodfellas

Monsanto

DIRECTOR John Lee Hancock
STARS Glen Powell, Anthony Mackie, Laura Dern
THE BUZZ The Erin Brockovich comparisons are obvious and not unfounded. Monsanto is the true story of a young attorney (Powell), who takes on a seemingly insurmountable case against the giant U.S. chemical company Monsanto on behalf of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson (Mackie).
SALES CAA Media Finance

Nuremberg

DIRECTOR James Vanderbilt
STARS Russell Crowe, Rami Malek, Michael Shannon, Richard E. Grant
THE BUZZ The old-school historical thriller offers up the tasty prospect of Oscar winners Malek and Crowe facing off in a battle of wills when American psychologist Douglas Kelley (Malek) is tasked with judging if Hitler’s right-hand man Hermann Göring (Crowe) is fit to face trial for war crimes.
SALES WME Independent

Oh, Canada

DIRECTOR Paul Schrader
STARS Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Jacob Elordi
THE BUZZ Reteaming for the first time since American Gigolo, Schrader directs Gere as an ailing documentarian who sits for a documentary about himself with the intention of being honest about his past. While Gere and Schrader are sure to attract buyers looking to program for older adult audiences, Euphoria star Elordi, who plays a younger version of Gere’s character, offers a play for younger viewers.
SALES Arclight, WME Independent

Power Ballad

DIRECTOR John Carney
STARS Paul Rudd, Nick Jonas
THE BUZZ Rudd’s wedding singer and Jonas’ down-on-his-luck pop star come together and inadvertently write a hit song. Hilarity ensues. Carney’s heartfelt, music-forward comedies have always been market fodder, with streamers and specialty labels looking for some feel-good fare.
SALES 30WEST, WME Independent, UTA Independent Film Group

Riddick: Furya

DIRECTOR David Twohy
STARS Vin Diesel
THE BUZZ The long-in-development fourth entry in the Pitch Black sci-fi franchise has finally arrived, and the return of Diesel as the titular escaped convict antihero will have indie buyers worldwide hoping the new creature feature will deliver, particularly on the lucrative home entertainment market.
SALES Rocket Science, CAA Media Finance

Sacrifice

DIRECTOR Romain Gavras
STARS Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Evans, Salma Hayek, Brendan Fraser
THE BUZZ Gavras is red hot after the explosive success of his riots in the streets of Paris feature Athena, which was released on Netflix worldwide and should ignite interest in his English-language debut, particularly given the impressive all-star cast. The plot involves a violent group of radicals who storm a high-end charity gala on a mystical quest to fulfill a prophecy.
SALES CAA Media Finance, Rocket Science

The Shrouds

DIRECTOR David Cronenberg
STARS Vincent Cassel, Diane Kruger, Guy Pearce
THE BUZZ Genre fans worldwide cheered Cronenberg’s return to body horror with 2022’s Crimes of the Future, and his latest horror thriller, about a grieving widower who builds a device to connect with the dead, should have distributors lining up to be Cronenberged.
SALES SBS International

The Surfer

DIRECTOR Lorcan Finnegan
STARS Nicolas Cage
THE BUZZ We couldn’t leave it with just one Cage film. This Midnight Screenings special from Vivarium director Finnegan will see Cage play a man who, after years in the U.S., returns to his Australian beachside hometown only to be confronted by a local gang of surfers determined to claim the beach as their own.
SALES Mossbank, WME Independent

Takes One to Know One

DIRECTOR Nathalie Biancheri
STARS Olivia Cooke, Jamie Bell
THE BUZZ Nicely timed to profit from the return of sexy cinema (thank you, Challengers), this romancer follows two people who accidentally fall for each other on a trip to Italy, despite both being in relationships with other people.
SALES Cornerstone, CAA Media Finance

The Queen of Fashion

DIRECTOR Alex Marx
STARS Andrea Riseborough, Emilia Clarke,, Richard E. Grant,, Fionn O’Shea, Hayley Atwell
THE BUZZ The long-gestating biopic of fashion editor and style icon Isabella Blow will finally hit the market, with the Oscar-nominated Riseborough set to star as well as produce. Blow’s life-long struggles with undiagnosed bipolar disorder — she would eventually die by suicide in 2007 — suggest this project will be more than just a behind-the-scenes peek at the ’80s-’90s fashion world and could be a potential awards season contender.
SALES Rocket Science, CAA Media Finance

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