Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar win has thrown a new potential star into the ring as players in the independent space hustle to package films for Cannes and beyond.
Sales agents have long bemoaned the small pool of marketable talent that can galvanise pre-sales and represent value around the world.
The British actor’s Oscar coronation last Sunday for his lead role in The Theory Of Everything offers an opportunity to broaden the range of available star power in non-studio projects.
Indeed Redmayne and Oscar nominee and Birdman star Michael Keaton were on almost every talent list scrutinised by sales agents in the run-up to the EFM in Berlin.
Now every sales agent in the business will be approaching Redmayne’s representatives to see if he would be suited to whichever projects they may be sizing up.
Just as agents often demand higher salaries for clients who taste success at the Oscars, so sales agents know they can use the cachet of award-winning talent to boost asking prices on a project.
“I was initially involved in The Hurt Locker and I saw the evolution of something go from a package to six-time Oscar winner,” said Nadine de Barros, who founded Fortitude International a year ago.
“We had one buyer who wanted to shelve it and we told them to wait until the nominations. There’s a tangible revenue influence that the Oscar has on a movie.”
What’s next for the winners?
Like all Sunday’s Oscar winners Redmayne is yet to choose his next project, although the internet was buzzing on Friday when Working Title tweeted a shot of him as transgender artist Lili Elbe in the upcoming The Danish Girl, a project he committed to last year.
Keaton’s upcoming releases this year are Universal’s summer release Minions and the Catholic Church abuse scandal ensemble Spotlight, which Open Road will release later this year. He is on board Universal’s 2017 release Kong: Skull Island.
Best actress winner Julianne Moore and supporting actor winner JK Simmons are prolific and can expect even more attention from casting agents in the years ahead.
Both are in studio films: the former will reprise her role as President Alma Coin later this year in Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, while Simmons will appear this summer in Terminator: Genisys and joins Keaton on Kong: Skull Island.
Moore is understood to be in the mix on a number of projects that could find their way to the Croisette. The indie darling added prestige to Bankside’s hot seller Freeheld and will star alongside Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke on Rebecca Miller’s upcoming comedy Maggie’s Plan for Protagonist.
Hawke’s Boyhood co-star Patricia Arquette triumphed in the best supporting actress category and while her film work is less prevalent she been a TV mainstay in recent years with Medium and Boardwalk Empire and is shooting CSI: Cyber.
Does a win spell box office success?
Given his age and leading man looks, sources agree that Redmayne is the pick of the bunch. While it would appear that he, like Matthew McConaughey, will eschew the elusive profile of 2003 best actor winner Adrien Brody and aim to stay busy, there is no guarantee he will repay the faith of investors with commercial returns.
“It’s really it’s their ability to carry a movie on their own that commands a price,” says Vincent Bruzzese, CEO of research firm C4.
“If you look at the top salaries you have Leonardo DiCaprio, The Rock, Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper and none of them has won.
“Of the top actresses you have Jennifer Anniston, Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lawrence. Out of these top eight you have one who has won the Oscar [Lawrence, for Silver Linings Playbook in 2013].”
“The question a producer will ask themselves is can Eddie Redmayne open a bigger movie?” says one source who asked to remain anonymous. “Nobody’s going to give him a $10m payday to star in a film with a $100m production budget.
“The fact that The Theory Of Everything hasn’t grossed a lot of money will not necessarily boost his asking price, but it will give him the opportunity to do different types of movies.”
The McConaughey model
McConaughey is the best recent example of someone who has segued from Academy Awards triumph into a slew of interesting roles and allowed sales agents to parlay his award into added value.
Since winning the best actor Oscar in 2014 for Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey signed on to three independent projects that lit up each of the markets where they debuted as pre-sales titles.
Sea Of Trees underscored an emphatic launch for Alex Walton and Ken Kao’s Bloom in Cannes last year and is tipped to play at the festival this year, while IM Global made a splash with The Free State Of Jones at the AFM last autumn and Gold proved a hot seller for Sierra/Affinity in Berlin.
The star had already committed to True Detective and Interstellar before his Oscar win and True Detective in particular raised his game even further when it premiered in January 2014.
“It’s [the talent’s] responsibility to see if they can pick something that’s both commercial and very good [after they win the Oscar],” said one prominent sales agent who preferred to remain anonymous.
“It propelled Matthew McConaughey on a very successful bump in his career. Others have preferred to stick with small, interesting movies, which is what they were making in the first place to get to the Oscar stand. Eddie Redmayne – what’s his first post-Oscar script that he will pick himself?”
Colin Firth has parlayed his success for The King’s Speech into a string of high-profile films and his fee is likely to have shot up from the $2-3m range to $8-10m per film, according to sources. C4’s Bruzzese links his lead role in current release Kingsman: The Secret Service to the Oscar win.
Victory for The Hurt Locker in 2010 worked wonders for its star, who earned a nomination but lost out on the night to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart.
“We had Jeremy Renner and you had to explain who he was before the Oscars, but when the film won best picture, it put him on the map,” says Mimi Steinbauer of Radiant Films International, who served as a sales consultant on The Hurt Locker for Voltage at the time.
Oscar wins offer great marketing hooks and distributors know they can pique audience curiosity with a known name.
ABC plastered the Oscar telecast with ads for its imminent series American Crime written by John Ridley and led with the words: “From the Oscar-winning writer of 12 Years A Slave…”
While it remains unclear whether a Redmayne or Moore film will boost box office for an independent distributor outside the US, the fact that they have won an Oscar is expected to count for something.