Bart Layton, known mostly as an executive producer for TV series and specials, directed his debut big-screen documentary The Imposter back in 2012. The film premiered that year at Sundance, receiving critical acclaim and support. Now he’s back with his narrative feature debut in American Animals, which also saw success at Sundance, receiving solid reviews at their most recent festival.
Sticking with his roots as a documentarian, the new film is based on a true story. Also written by Layton, the story follows four college students at Transylvania University who in 2004, hatched a plan to steal a couple prized books from their school’s library. These books, John James Audubon’s Birds of America and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, have an estimated combined market value of over $10 million. Layton’s film focuses on the portion of the heist’s execution that goes off the rails.
Evan Peters (American Horror Story) plays the group’s ringleader with Barry Keoghan (The Killing of Sacred Deer) as his right-hand man. Blake Jenner (The Edge of Seventeen) and Jared Abrahamson (Hello Destroyer) round out the foursome. These are four indie stars on the rise, especially Peters and Keoghan, and should be a treat for indie fans this summer. The newly released trailer gives off a feel of Fight Club mixed with Ocean’s Eleven.
After its premiere at Sundance, The Orchard acquired the distribution rights by teaming up with MoviePass in a reported $3 million deal. The film has since been on a festival run that included SXSW in March. Watch the new footage below and look for Layton’s narrative debut when it hits theaters on June 1st.