Cannes Market Buzz Titles: Actioners, Sci-Fi Thrillers and Historical Dramas Up for Sale On the Croisette

·11-min read

The Cannes Film Festival is back at full strength for the first time since 2019, and just in time to mark the iconic event’s 75th anniversary. While the 2021 edition of Cannes was a muted affair with the market going virtual — and the sale of Gerard Butler’s “Greenland” sequel to STX emerging as the hottest deal — this year’s market is back in person with a dynamic, broad array of packages on offer, including a healthy serving of action titles, sci-fi thrillers and historical dramas. Here are some of the top titles sparking interest from buyers.

“The Beekeeper”
Jason Statham leads what one buyer argues is the “most fun and broadly commercial” package hitting the Croisette so far. The action stalwart stars in the hopeful franchise launch as a former operative of a powerful group called “The Beekepers” who sets out for revenge when his identity is blown.
Genre: Action
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Jason Statham
Sales: Miramax

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“Breathe”
After Earth is left uninhabitable due to a lack of oxygen, Maya (Jennifer Hudson) and her daughter are forced to live underground with short trips to the surface only possible via special oxygen suits. When a mysterious couple arrives claiming to know Darius and his fate, Maya tentatively agrees to let them into their bunker, but are they all they appear to be?
Genre: Sci-fi action-thriller
Director: Stefon Bristol
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Milla Jovovich, Common
International sales agent: Capstone Global
Domestic sales agent: Capstone, CAA Media Finance, UTA

“Convenience Story”
A screenwriter in a deep slump digs himself ever deeper into dismay until an errand for his girlfriend takes him to Ideal Mart. The unusual convenience store has everything he could desire, including a mysterious married woman who gets his creative juices flowing. Directed by the popular writer-director Miki Satoshi (“What to do With the Dead Kaiju,” “Adrift in Tokyo”), the film has already booked a berth at the upcoming Fantasia festival and will hit Japanese theaters in August.
Genre: Fantasy drama
Director: Miki Satoshi
Cast: Narita Ryo, Maeda Atsuko
Sales: Free Stone Productions

The original “Dirty Dancing” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 - Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate
The original “Dirty Dancing” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 - Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

Courtesy of Lionsgate

“Dirty Dancing”
Baby’s back in her corner with this sequel to the seminal 1987 movie (which premiered at Cannes that year). Jennifer Grey is reprising her role as Frances “Baby” Houseman, who returns to the Kellerman’s resort in the 1990s. The sequel is billed as a coming-of-age romance that follows Frances’s daughter at the resort. Patrick Swayze died in 2009, but discussions are said to be ongoing with the actor’s estate, as Johnny Castle remains a “part of Baby’s journey” in the sequel.
Genre: Musical drama
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Jennifer Grey
Sales: Lionsgate

“The Empire”
This ambitious sci-fi from Bruno Dumont (“France”) centers on two opposing tribes from outer space who engage in a bitter conflict in Northern France’s Opal Coast. Dumont describes the project as a “space and earth opera” that serves as a “galactic metaphor” for humanity’s internal struggles.
Genre: Sci-fi drama
Director: Bruno Dumont
Cast: Lily Rose-Depp, Anamaria Vartolomei, Camille Cottin, Fabrice Luchini
Sales: Memento International

“Fingernails”
Greek “Apples” director Christos Nikou is rolling out his highly anticipated English-language debut with “Fingernails,” starring Jessie Buckley, a recent Oscar nominee for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter,” and Oscar winner Riz Ahmed. Much like “Apples,” this is another off-kilter drama centered around an odd institute that’s developed a test to figure out whether a couple is really in love. Unsure of the positive result she’s received in her own relationship, Anna (Buckley) becomes an assistant to a mysterious professor (Ahmed) at the institute to find out more.
Genre: Drama
Director: Christos Nikou
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed
International sales agent: FilmNation
Domestic sales agent: CAA, WME Independent

“Hamlet”
Fresh off their best short film Oscar for “The Long Goodbye,” multi-hyphenate Riz Ahmed and Aneil Karia are again teaming up for a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Ahmed stars as Hamlet, haunted by his father’s ghost and driven to increasingly unstable heights. Moving from elite London to the city’s underground, from Hindu temples to homeless tent cities, he goes to rash and violent lengths to avenge his father’s murder, ultimately questioning his own role in the family’s corruption and who he has become.
Genre: Drama
Director: Aneil Karia
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Morfydd Clark, Joe Alwyn
International sales agent: WME Independent
Domestic sales agent: CAA

“In The Land of Saints and Sinners”
Liam Neeson is back employing his very particular set of skills in this actioner set in 1970s Ireland. The actor stars as newly retired assassin, Finbar, who’s found himself a place of refuge but is drawn back into action when a young local woman and her daughter become the victims of abuse.
Genre: Action
Director: Robert Lorenz
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds, Kerry Condon, Colm Meaney , Jack Gleeson, Desmond Eastwood
International sales agent: Bleiberg Entertainment
Domestic sales agent: CAA Media Finance/UTA

Ben Whishaw stars in “Limonov: The Ballad of Eddie” - Credit: Courtesy Wildside
Ben Whishaw stars in “Limonov: The Ballad of Eddie” - Credit: Courtesy Wildside

Courtesy Wildside

“Limonov: The Ballad of Eddie”
In what’s sure to be one of the most controversial films of the market, Ben Whishaw plays Russian writer, poet and political dissident Eduard Limonov. The project — which was halfway through filming in Russia when the war against Ukraine broke out — originates from Russian auteur Kirill Serebrennikov, whose film “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” is also in competition at Cannes. It’s also co-written by “Ida” and “Cold War” helmer Pawel Pawlikowski.
Genre: Historical drama
Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
Cast: Ben Whishaw
Sales: Pathé in collaboration with Vision Distribution.

“La Maison”
Based on Emma Becker’s controversial bestselling novel, the film follows Emma, a 27 year-old novelist who is writing a book about world of sex workers and manages to get recruited as a sex worker at La Maison, a renowned Berlin brothel, to understand their lives at the fullest.
Genre: Erotic drama
Director: Anissa Bonnefont
Cast: Ana Girardot, Rossy De Palma
International sales agent: Pulsar Content

“Melody”
Pop star Katy Perry headlines this animated musical from producer Jeremy Zag of “LadyBug and Cat Noir” and “Miraculous LadyBug” fame. The “Firework” and “Roar” singer will write and perform songs for the movie, which will center on an insecure chanteuse who tries to overcome a wicked pop queen that’s hell-bent on destroying her. In discussing the project, Perry said that being a mother to a two year old inspired her to take on the role, and that, at 37, she “still struggles with being insecure.”
Genre: Animated musical
Director: Jeremy Zag
Cast: Katy Perry
Sales: CAA Media Finance, Rocket Science

“Operation Napoleon”
“Game of Thrones” star Iain Glen and “Riviera” actor Jack Fox lead this international thriller spanning modern Iceland to America and Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. The project is adapted from a bestselling novel by Iceland’s master of crime, Arnaldur Indridason, and follows a young lawyer who gets drawn into a global conspiracy when the melting of one of Iceland’s largest glaciers reveals a German WWII airplane wreck.
Genre: Thriller
Director: Óskar Thór Axelsson
Cast: Iain Glen, Jack Fox, Vivian Ólafsdóttir, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson
Sales: Beta Cinema

“Quicksand”
An American couple on a work trip to Colombia take a hike in the mountains that soon becomes a nightmare in this high-concept survival thriller. After a storm in the rainforest they’re hiking in, the couple gets stuck in a pit of quicksand and have to battle the elements and a venomous snake to stay alive.
Genre: Survival thriller
Director: Andres Beltran
Cast: Carolina Gaitan, Allan Hawco
Sales: Altitude Film Sales

Bollywood superstars R. Madhavan and Shah Rukh Khan star in “Rocketry” - Credit: TriColour Films/Varghese Moolan Pictures/27th Investments
Bollywood superstars R. Madhavan and Shah Rukh Khan star in “Rocketry” - Credit: TriColour Films/Varghese Moolan Pictures/27th Investments

TriColour Films/Varghese Moolan Pictures/27th Investments

“Rocketry”
Positioned as a Bollywood movie with huge international potential, “Rocketry” stars two of the top stars of the Indian film industry: R. Madhavan and Shah Rukh Khan. Madhavan portrays Indian scientist Nambi Narayanan, a former Indian Space Research Organization scientist and aerospace engineer known for developing efficient liquid fuel engines and who became embroiled in a spy scandal. The biopic will unveil new insights into the mystery as it unravels via the narrative device of an interview on a TV program. Khan is the interviewer in the English and Hindi versions while Suriya Sivakumar steps in for the Tamil version.
Genre: Historical biographic drama
Director: R. Madhavan
Cast: R. Madhavan, Shah Rukh Khan
India sales agent: UFO Moviez (Red Giants for South India)
International sales agent: Yash Raj Films and Phars Film Co.

“The Convert”
When lay preacher Thomas Munro (Guy Pearce) arrives at a British settlement in 1830s New Zealand, his violent past is soon drawn into question and his faith put to the test, when he finds himself caught in the middle of a bloody war between Māori tribes.
Genre: Historical epic/action
Director: Lee Tamahori
Cast: Guy Pearce, Te Kohe Tuhaka
Sales: Mister Smith Entertainment

Anna Kendrick leads thriller “The Dating Game Killer,” about the true story of a serial killer that appeared on the popular U.S. dating show. - Credit: Casey Curry/Invision/AP/Shutters
Anna Kendrick leads thriller “The Dating Game Killer,” about the true story of a serial killer that appeared on the popular U.S. dating show. - Credit: Casey Curry/Invision/AP/Shutters

Casey Curry/Invision/AP/Shutters

“The Dating Game”
Anna Kendrick will lead this thriller that tells the chilling true story of serial killer Rodney Alcala, who appeared on popular U.S. dating program “The Dating Game” — and was selected to go on a date with contestant Cheryl Bradshaw — before his grisly crimes were ultimately exposed. AGC International is the distribution arm for Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, which had a hit on its hands with Netflix dating-gone-wrong documentary “The Tinder Swindler” earlier this year.
Genre: True-crime thriller
Director: Chloe Okuno
Cast: Anna Kendrick
International sales agent: AGC International
Domestic sales agent: CAA, UTA

“The End We Start From”
Fresh from her BAFTA TV Award win, Jodie Comer stars in another environmental thriller that sees London submerged by flood waters and a young family torn apart in the chaos. Comer stars as a woman trying to navigate the way home for herself and her newborn baby.
Genre: Sci-fi thriller
Director: Mahalia Belo
Cast: Jodie Comer
International sales agent: Anton
Domestic sales agent: UTA

“The Pot Au Feu”
Could this be the next “Chocolat”? Set in the world of French gastronomy in 1885, “The Pot Au Feu” charts the relationship between Eugenie, an esteemed cook, and Dodin, the chef she’s been working for over the last 20 years. Growing fonder of one another, their bond turns into a romance and gives rise to delicious dishes that impress even the world’s most illustrious chefs. The story is inspired by the famous French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Genre: Romantic drama
Director: Tran Anh Hung
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Magimel
Sales: Gaumont

“The Three Musketeers”
Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”), Eva Green (“Casino Royal”) and Vicky Krieps (“Phantom Thread”) star in “The Three Musketeers” – D’Artagnan” and “The Three Musketeers – Milady,” a sprawling $75 million two-part European film based on Alexandre Dumas’s masterpiece. Directed by Martin Bourboulon (“Eiffel”), and penned by Alexandre de la Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte (“What’s in a Name?”), the two ‘Musketeers’ films are currently completing principal photography after more than 140 days of shooting at prestigious French landmarks, including the Louvre Palace.
Director: Martin Bourboulon
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Eva Green, Vicky Krieps, François Civil and Romain Duris
Sales: Pathe International

“Tunnels”
Susan Sarandon and “It” actor Jaeden Martell strike up an unlikely friendship in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy in this drama from “Kill Your Darlings” director John Krokidas. Sarandon stars as Ruby, a woman whose grandson becomes a school shooter. She meets one of his victim’s siblings, Grayson (Martell), when they are paired together at the local grocery store where they both work, and through their friendship, realizes she can still help bring the town back together again.
Genre: Drama
Director: John Krokidas
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Jaeden Martell, Anna Faris, Alicia Silverstone, Patrick Wilson
International sales agent: Bankside Films
Domestic sales agent: CAA Media Finance, UTA

“What Happens Later”
The queen of rom-coms is back, and she’s in the director’s seat again. Meg Ryan’s “What Happens Later” follows ex-lovers Willa (Ryan) and Bill (David Duchovny) who are reunited for the first time since their split decades ago when they both find themselves snowed in while in transit at an airport overnight. U.S. rights were snapped up early by Bleecker Street.
Genre: Romantic comedy
Director: Meg Ryan
Cast: Meg Ryan David Duchovny
International sales agent: HanWay Films
U.S. rights: Bleecker Street

“Wild Four O’Clocks”
When their father is sent to prison, two young brothers are placed in the care of their estranged grandmother (Michelle Pfeiffer) who must decide how much to reveal to them about their father’s crime.
Genre: Drama
Director: Peter Craig
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer
International sales agent: Protagonist Pictures
Domestic sales agent: CAA

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