WithSteven Soderbergh stepping to replace Terrence Malick as the director of Che, this re-written biopic about the Cubanrevolutionary Che Guevara may prove an easier sell on the international market,believes its relieved Paris-based sales agent Wild Bunch.
Malick'sabrupt departure last month from Che in order to focus more immediately on The New World, another project he'd been simultaneously nursingfor New Line, left Wild Bunch smarting.
TheFrench sales house had spent almost its entire time at February's American FilmMarket securing deals for Che.There, it raised $15m in pre-sales while lining up deals worth a further $8m.
Uponreturning to Paris to the news that Malick had other plans, Wild Bunch'sVincent Maraval and Co. filed a claim against White Shirt, the outfit createdby Malick, Soderbergh, Benicio Del Toro and Laura Bickford to produce Che.
WildBunch feared it could be sued for non-delivery and that its reputation wouldsuffer vis-a-vis its distributor clients.
"If it all gets sorted and nothingchanges except the director and it becomes easier to sell, we'll stop ouraction. At that point we couldn't care less about damages, but we had to defendour interests."
AlthoughSoderbergh was originally set to direct Che when the project was hatched, he pulled out to make Ocean's12 and Malick stepped in.
Soderberghwill begin shooting Ocean's 12this month and, according to Maraval, will work on a rewrite of Che that will be "more classic and dramaturgical" beforeshooting commences in the summer of 2005.
Ultimately,Maraval is happy with this turn of events, "For us it's very good," he says.
Asfor deals that were already in place with various distributors, Maraval saysWild Bunch will honour those who didn't baulk when Malick left.
Somedistributors had Malick written into their contracts as an essential elementand, when he stepped out, so did they.
Maravalexplains that if they choose to come back into the fray now they risk paying ahigher price for the opportunity. "They should have trusted us. They wanted toplay tough guys and ended up being ensnared in their own traps."
WildBunch will reward the confidence placed in it by distributors who chose to stayon board despite Malick's departure.
AsMaraval explains, "We can't go back to them now and say that because Soderberghis more commercial we expect a higher price. Those who trusted us just end upjust getting a better deal."
Andalthough the film will still be finished a year later than expected, Maravalbelieves, "If we had come back and had Malick ready for a summer 2005 startdate there is no distributor who would have bought the film until the firstday's footage was in the can."
BillPohlad's River Road Entertainment was the chief financier in the original setup along with VIP/Rising Star, Spain's Morena Films and Wild Bunch. Thisstructure will likely remain in place with White Shirt renaming itself underSoderbergh, Del Toro and Bickford.
Asfor cast, it is hoped that Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Ryan Gosling andFranke Potente will still have room in their schedules next year. Del Toro willstar as Che.
In the end Maraval says,"The idea of Malick as director touched film lovers and those who were ready totake a big risk just to get to be part of a Terrence Malick film once in theirlives. Soderbergh touches all of those people and more."