We’ve already reported that The Weinstein Company has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to warmly received Australian outback adventure story Tracks starring Mia Wasikowska as well the crowd-pleasing Can a Song Save Your Life? from John Carney, the director of Once. Now we can report that the house that Harvey built has procured two more enticing titles making the rounds on the fall festival circuit. The first is The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her, an ambitious two-part dissection of a relationship starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, and the second is The Railway Man, based on the true story of a survivor of WWII “Death Railway” starring Oscar winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. With an already crowded 2013 fall schedule that includes the already Toronto-launched would-be awards potential films ranging from Mandela: Walk to Freedom to August: Osage County to Philomena (which recently won the Best Screenplay prize at the Venice Film Festival), as well as still unseen properties like Grace of Monaco, The Weinstein Company appears to have enough titles in the bag to dominate the next ten awards seasons.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His & Her has been an interesting curiosity piece since it was announced. Written and directed by Doug Benson, in his feature film debut, the film stars Jessica Chastain (Oscar-nominated last season for Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty) and James McAvoy (Trance) as a couple in the midst of a horrific tragedy. Conceived as a two-part film and running nearly three hours put together, Eleanor Rigby tells the same story from the perspective of both Chastain’s title character and her romantic partner Colin Ludlow, played by McAvoy. The film has earned kind notices as a special presentation screening at Toronto. The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young surmised that it was, “a sensitive, talented debut that makes the gimmick of telling the same love story twice, from his & her viewpoints, almost work,” while Norm Wilner from NOW Magazine stated, “Benson’s two-part study of a relationship torn apart by grief is not only a remarkable directorial debut but a stunning emotional study, in whichever order you experience it…Benson has been working on this project in close collaboration with Chastain and Cassandra Kulukundis for nearly a decade, and the compassion he has for his characters shines through in every frame.” The film had been deemed a tricky sell based on its structure, but its profile will be greatly upped by its sale to Weinstein. Chastain’s The Help co-star Viola Davis, Ciaran Hinds and William Hurt also appear in the film. No release plans have been announced yet.
The Railway Man, meanwhile, has been gestating for a while, unusual considering it stars luminaries like Firth (who won the Oscar for The King’s Speech just three years ago) and Kidman (who won for The Hours a decade ago) – incidentally Firth was originally cast opposite her in last spring’s art house thriller Stoker. Weinstein purchased the film in what was one of the more aggressively fought acquisitions of the season. The film was directed by Aussie Jonathon Teplitzky (Better Than Sex.) The film concerns that of a former Eric Lomax, POW from World War II (played by Firth) who learns to make peace with his haunting past. Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) and Stellan Skarsgard co-star. Variety’s Peter Debruge said of the film, “Lomax found heroism in compassion, and that attitude is what audiences are bound to connect with so deeply here, even if such an outcome proves almost anti-dramatic onscreen.” Interestingly, if by some chance The Weinstein Company choose to release The Railway Man as a late 2013 entry, it would compete with Grace of Monaco, the Grace Kelly biopic also starring Kidman.
We will keep you posted on future release plans from these two enticing films.