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SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

`Grace' goes to Weinstein

January 22, 2007|John Horn | Times Staff Writer

PARK CITY, UTAH — It took four days, but the first Sundance Film Festival feature finally has been sold -- with Harvey Weinstein's purchase of the Iraq war bereavement drama "Grace Is Gone" for $4 million.

Thanks to a consistently grim slate of films, acquisitions this year have been slow, especially compared to last year, when "Little Miss Sunshine" sold soon after its screening on the first full day for a record $10.5 million.

Hours after he made the "Grace Is Gone" deal, Weinstein partnered with Lionsgate to buy the teen-satire/horror-film "Teeth" for an undisclosed amount. Mitchell Lichtenstein, the director of the often-explicit movie about a teenage girl's genital mutation, said the companies would release the film without cutting any of its graphic scenes.

This year's only other sale so far was Magnolia Pictures' small deal for the documentary "Crazy Love." "Grace" was the most anticipated acquisition screening yet; its Saturday showing was packed with reps from independent film distributors.

Written by first-time director James C. Strouse, the movie stars John Cusack as former soldier Stanley, the husband of a woman, Grace, serving in Iraq. While she is away, he takes care of their two young daughters. Stanley learns that Grace has been killed. Rather than immediately tell his children, he takes them on a road trip, celebrating their last days of innocence.

In addition to the Weinstein Co., Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features and Warner Independent Pictures expressed interest in the film. At 4:39 a.m. Sunday, Weinstein personally closed the deal with sales reps Cassian Elwes of the William Morris Agency and John Sloss of Cinetic Media.

"It's one of the best antiwar movies I've ever seen," said Weinstein, the former Miramax Films mogul whose new outfit, the Weinstein Co., is 15 months old. "This is not about kids in New York City. It's about people who live in the rest of America."

Cusack, also one of the film's producers, said he was drawn into the movie by his anger over the Bush administration's refusal to show photographs of U.S. coffins returning from Iraq. "So this is a story about one of the coffins coming home," the actor said. "It's not a liberal polemic in any way, shape or form. It's about the human cost of the war, in unflinching terms."

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