EXCLUSIVE: The dealmaking has begun. Searchlight Pictures closed the first major deal on the ground at the Sundance Film Festival — $10 million for worldwide rights for A Real Pain, directed and written by Jesse Eisenberg. He stars with freshly minted Emmy-winning Succession star Kieran Culkin as mismatched cousins David and Benji. They reunite for a tour of Poland to honor their grandmother, but older tensions resurface against the backdrop of their family’s history. The film will get a big theatrical release later this year.
Pic also stars Jennifer Grey, Will Sharpe, Kurt Egyiawan (Beasts of No Nation), Liza Sadovy (A Small Light) and Daniel Oreskes (Only Murders in the Building), and it’s produced by Topic and Fruit Tree, with Ali Herting, Dave McCary, Ewa Puszczynska, Jennifer Semler, Eisenberg and Emma Stone all producing. The film, playing in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance, has been a buzz title coming in and bidding buzz has mounted since its premiere yesterday at the Eccles.
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Deal was brokered by CAA Media Finance and WME Independent. It was a proper all-nighter auction, a throwback to years past in Sundance. Numerous bidders were in the mix. Searchlight execs Paul Hoffman and Chan Phung brokered the deal.
“We are blown away by Jesse’s vision and craft in telling this hilarious and profound film,” said Searchlight presidents Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum. “He tells a deeply personal story and makes it universal. We can’t wait to bring it to audiences around the world.”
Eisenberg added, “Making A Real Pain was a true labor of love, and it has been so thrilling to premiere at Sundance. I couldn’t be more honored to work with Searchlight and to bring this story to a wider audience.”
“We could not be more proud of Jesse and this beautiful film, and are absolutely thrilled to re-team with David, Matthew and our friends at Searchlight on its release,” said Ryan Heller, EVP of Film and Documentary at Topic Studios.
Said the Fruit Tree camp: “We are the utmost believers in Jesse as a creative voice and were thrilled to collaborate again on his second film with such ambitious scope and themes. To have another friend and beloved collaborator on board in Kieran Culkin was more than we can ask for, as working with the amazing team at Searchlight.”
Searchlight is in business with Stone right now on the Oscar-contending Yorgos Lanthimos-directed Golden Lion and Golden Globe winner Poor Things, and Andrew Haigh’s acclaimed romantic drama All of Us Strangers.
Searchlight, which is also world premiering at Sundance the Laura Chinn-directed Suncoast, starring Laura Linney, Nico Parker and Woody Harrelson, has a long record of tapping Sundance gems from Napoleon Dynamite to last year’s deals for Theater Camp and Magazine Dreams, the latter undone not because of the film’s quality and performances but because of star Jonathan Majors’ legal problems.
There has been a lot of enthusiasm for many films that premiered in the fest’s opening frame, with more to come today. More talk of deals than I’ve heard at this point in the festival in several years. Not sure there’s going to be a record-breaker like the $25 million Apple paid for eventual Best Picture Oscar winner CODA, but a lot of these films will find homes. Most probably won’t sell until buyers and sellers go home, because the dealmaking pace is much more deliberate than in the past because you can appreciate the artistry of a film, but you have to be sure you can market it and release it and make some money. But it’s a good time in Park City.
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