Sundance 2012: Fox Searchlight Picks Up THE SURROGATE; Sony Pictures Classics Acquires CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER

     January 24, 2012

Two of the more high profile films featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival have now secured distribution. Fox Searchlight will handle the drama The Surrogate, while Sony Pictures Classics has picked up the comedy Celeste and Jesse Forever. The Surrogate is quickly becoming one of the more crowd-pleasing pics at the fest, picking up a considerable amount of buzz with each screening. The film stars John Hawkes as a paraplegic polio victim who sets out to find a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) wiling to take his virginity. Fox Searchlight acquired worldwide rights to the flick, which also stars William H. Macy.

Additionally, Sony Pictures Classics has acquired distribution rights to Celeste and Jesse Forever. Co-written by and starring Rashida Jones, the film centers on a couple that decides to break up. The impressive cast is rounded out by Andy Samberg, Emma Roberts, and Elijah Wood. Hit the jump to read the full press release regarding both acquisitions, and click here to read Matt’s review of the Celeste and Jesse Forever.

celeste-and-jesse-forever-movie-image-rashida-jones-andy-samberg-01Here’s the full press release for Celeste and Jesse Forever:

NEW YORK, NY (January 24, 2012) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all North American, Latin American and Eastern European rights to the film CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER.  The film, directed by Lee Toland Krieger (THE VICIOUS KIND) and co-written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, is produced by Jennifer Todd and Suzanne Todd of Team Todd and Lee Nelson of Envision Media Arts, who also financed the film. The deal was negotiated by UTA’s Independent Film Group.

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER was one of the most talked about films at the festival and debuted in the Premiere Section of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  The film stars Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina, Ari Graynor, Will McCormack, Emma Roberts, and Elijah Wood.

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER is about two people who met in high school, married young and are growing apart.  Now thirty, they decide to get divorced and attempt to stay best friends while pursuing other relationships.   This plan is not as simple as they had imagined.

Celeste—imperious, successful and driven– is convinced that divorcing the boyish Jesse is the right thing to do.   Jesse passively accepts this transition into friendship, even though he still is in love with her. As the reality of their separation sets in, Celeste slowly and painfully realizes she has been cavalier about their relationship. But her timing with Jesse is less than fortuitous.   While navigating the turbulent changes in their lives and in their hearts, these two learn that in order to truly love someone, you may have to let them go. The film is a humorous and honest examination of a broken heart and the long, hard road it takes to heal it.

“No recent movie is more current, more perceptive, or more fun than CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER. Lee Toland Krieger has made a major film. The cast is superlative and it is an obvious labor of love for Rashida Jones and Will McCormack that delivers on all levels. We are excited to be in business with Jennifer Todd, Lee Nelson and our friends at UTA,” said Sony Pictures Classics.

Producers Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd and Lee Nelson add, “We are thrilled our film has found a home with Sony Pictures Classics and are incredibly excited to work with Michael, Tom and Dylan. Their track record is unparalleled and we feel very lucky to have our film with them.”

Here’s the full press release for The Surrogate:

PARK CITY, UT January 24, 2012 – Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula announced today that the company has acquired worldwide rights to the inspirational true story THE SURROGATE. Directed and written by Ben Lewin, THE SURROGATE stars John Hawkes as Mark O’Brien, Helen Hunt as Cheryl Cohen Greene and William H. Macy as Father Brendan.  The film was produced by Judi Levine of Suchmuch Films and Stephen Nemeth of Rhino Films and is scheduled to be released in 2012.

“Ben Lewin has created a touching, uplifting look at one man’s desire to experience life to the fullest.  The brave and indelible performances by John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy left us floored,” said Gilula and Utley.

“We’re very happy to have found a home at Fox Searchlight for this film,” said director Ben Lewin.  “We have worked hard  to evoke the spirit of Mark O’Brien and his writing, and feel that the Searchlight team can help bring his unique and touching story to as wide of an audience as possible.”

“We look forward to working with Searchlight to broaden the conversation of topics that were once considered taboo and that represent what’s going on in society in a much more open way,” said Levine.

“Their work on films as diverse as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ show their resources and passion can translate emotionally compelling material to a mainstream audience,” added producer Nemeth.

Based on the poignantly optimistic autobiographical writings of California–based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, THE SURROGATE tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who is determined – at age 38 – to lose his virginity.   With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality.

The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight’s Executive Vice President of Worldwide Acquisitions Tony Safford, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien and Vice President of Acquisitions & Co-Productions Ray Strache with CAA and attorney Craig Emanuel on behalf of the filmmakers.

Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures.  It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox.  Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment, a unit of Fox Entertainment Group.

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