Writer, director, and star Angelina Jolie Pitt’s drama By the Sea will make its world premiere Nov. 5 as the opening film of AFI Fest, organizers have announced.
Reuniting Jolie Pitt and husband Brad Pitt on screen for the first time in a decade, By the Sea follows an American writer and his wife as they arrive in a picturesque seaside resort in 1970s France with their marriage on the rocks. Jolie Pitt has said the film, her directorial follow-up to Unbroken, is inspired by European cinema and theater of the ’60s and ’70s.
AFI chief Bob Gazzale said in a statement, “Time and again, Angelina Jolie Pitt has proven herself an artist of the highest caliber. It is an honor for AFI to celebrate her latest story with its world premiere — and in doing so — to shine a proper light upon her boundless creative energies as actor, director, writer, and producer.”
Jolie Pitt added that “AFI has long supported the boldness and experimentation that accompanies provocative cinema.”
The 29th AFI Fest runs Nov. 5-12 in Hollywood. Last year J.C. Chandor’s crime drama A Most Violent Year opened the festival.
Universal Pictures will release By the Sea on Nov. 13.
Would you expect anything less than arresting beauty from a film starring Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt? But the actress, who also wrote and directed this film about an estranged married couple struggling with grief, says that setting By the Sea in the 1970s wasn’t without its aesthetic challenges. “It makes me happy when people say the movie looks period but also beautiful,” she says. “I was little in the ’70s, and to see our old pictures, well…” She laughs. “It was not great.”
Filming took place in Malta last August, with the quiet island of Goza standing in for seaside France. Cinematographer Christian Berger (The White Ribbon) kept the look of the production as realistic as possible. “It’s all natural light so it doesn’t feel artificial,” Jolie Pitt says. “When we did scenes, we didn’t have big lighting setups in our face for close-ups.” That stripped-down intimacy helped with some of the film’s heavier moments. “We watch this couple go off the track and we wait to see if it gets more unhealthy, or if they will recover,” she says. “I think too often people go through very painful transformative experiences and they don’t stay together. They abandon each other.”
The reverse was true for the newly wedded stars — who worked on the film during their honeymoon — though it certainly wasn’t without its darker moments. “It was an emotionally charged set,” Jolie Pitt says. “Even though the characters are very different from us, when you act you still express real emotion.” Luckily, the couple’s six kids were on hand to ground them. “It’s impossible to bring your work home with you when you have to snap out of it for your children,” she says. “It wasn’t easy for either of us, but when we walked away, we were closer than we had been.”
By the Sea opens Nov. 13.
DEADLINE EXCLUSIVE: Netflix has acquired distribution rights to War Machine, the David Michod-directed drama which will star Brad Pitt as a four-star rock star U.S. military general. The character is patterned after Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for a time the commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The film is a satirical comedy inspired by the bestselling book The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story Of America’s War In Afghanistan, by the late journalist Michael Hastings. Script was written by Michod, whose credits include Animal Kingdom and The Rover. Pitt and his Plan B cohorts Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner will produce with Ian Bryce.
This picture package was on Deadline’s list of his Cannes titles, but Pitt and his reps have for several weeks been down the road with Ted Sarandos and his Netflix cohorts on an alternative strategy. With this deal, Sarandos has an opportunity to make the kind of seismic move in features as he did with TV series like House Of Cards. This will be the biggest investment Netflix will have made so far in a feature film, in the $30 million range. It is also the first time Netflix has really gotten hold of a film with one of the biggest global A-list movie stars, in his prime, along with his producing cohorts whose recent credits include Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave and Best Picture nominee Selma.
The streaming service continues to establish itself in countries around the world — it just announced Italy, Portugal and Spain to raise its penetration to more than 150 countries — and is expected to be in even more by the time this movie is ready for a qualifying theatrical run, and then a big Netflix worldwide bow late in 2016.
Plan B acquired the Hastings book last year and originally it seemed like a straight nonfiction film. It has instead been turned into a fictionalized satire. The book captured McChrystal in his cocky glory, and focused on the backrooms and politics of war and the high-stakes maneuvers and political firestorm that shook the country. Hastings, who followed McChrystal around Europe and Afghanistan for a month in 2010 for a Rolling Stone article, quoted the general badmouthing the White House and its handling of the war. That proved to be his undoing; after Rolling Stone published the article “The Runaway General,” McChrystal was ordered back to D.C. by President Obama, and McChrystal tendered his resignation there.
Even though this is sophisticated subject matter and not the popcorn fare that studios covet, any studio or independent distributor would have salivated over releasing a movie with Brad Pitt as its star. But it is also the kind of movie that is often hard pressed to find a large theatrical audience, and P&A is exorbitant to chase that business. Pitt and his advisers instead decided to experiment with the idea that potentially more people would see the film through the Netflix global streaming subscriber base, while still having it eligible for Oscar consideration just like any other theatrical release. Deadline has reported that when Netflix makes a deal like this — or on a movie like the Cary Fukunaga-directed Idris Elba-starrer Beasts Of No Nation or the four movies that will star Adam Sandler and be produced by his company — its model eliminates the possibility for overages because the priority is the streaming service. We’ve heard that Netflix will pay 130% of a film’s budget. In order to get this coup, it paid at least that much or more, but it potentially knocks down a wall that could give Netflix a real shot at movie-star-driven pictures that want one-stop shopping. Netflix will also heavily market the movie.
“War Machine is a rip-roaring, behind-the-facade tale of modern war decision-makers, from the corridors of power to the distant regions of America’s ambitions,” said Sarandos, the chief content officer of Netflix. “Brad and David are a perfect team to make this timely, compelling and entertaining film.”
Said Pitt: We are so excited to be a part of the inspiring commitment by Netflix to produce cutting-edge content and to deliver it to a global audience.”
Said Michod: “I’m humbled to be making a big, bold movie about the whole sprawling, complex, cumbersome and crazy machinery of modern war and the many lives it touches.”
Pitt has hardly abandoned the traditional theatrical release that launched his star. He wrapped By The Sea, the Universal film with Angelina Jolie, who directed. After he wraps War Machine, Pitt will join Marion Cotillard in an untitled Steven Knight-scripted period spy thriller that will be directed by Robert Zemeckis for Paramount. He will then reprise in a sequel to the zombie apocalypse hit Wold War Z, which is being scripted by Knight and will be directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, with Plan B producing.
Pitt is repped by CAA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Alan Hergott. CAA brokered the deal. UTA reps Michod.
Paramount Pictures has set a June 9, 2017, release date for the sequel to “World War Z.”
Variety reported a year ago that the studio had hired Steven Knight to write the sequel, which is co-financed by Skydance. J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”) will direct the zombie tentpole with Brad Pitt returning in the starring role.
Plot details for the film, based on Max Brooks’ novel, have been kept under wraps. Pitt will produce the tentpole alongside Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner for Plan B.
“World War Z,” directed by Marc Forster, earned more than $540 million worldwide in 2013 and became the highest-grossing film of Pitt’s career.
The sequel is the second title dated for June 9, 2017. Fox has also set “Fantastic Four 2? for the same date.