EXCLUSIVE: MGM and Amazon have struck big deals for U.S. and international rights, respectively, to Jake Gyllenhaal-Guy Ritchie’s upcoming untitled Afghan war film, we can reveal.
Filming is set to begin on January 24 in Alicante, Spain, with additional cast to be revealed soon. Significant deals have also been struck with local buyers in a handful of overseas markets, with STX handling sales and financing (which is now complete) for Ritchie.
In the $55 million budget action thriller, Gyllenhaal will play Sgt. John Kinley, who is on his final assignment in Afghanistan when he teams up with local interpreter Ahmed to survey the area. When their unit is ambushed while on patrol, Kinley and Ahmed are the only survivors, and with enemy fighters in pursuit, Ahmed risks his life to carry a wounded Kinley through miles of grueling terrain to the security. Back on American soil, Kinley learns that Ahmed and his family have not been allowed to travel to America as promised. Determined to protect his friend and repay his debt, Kinley returns to the war zone to retrieve Ahmed and his family before the local militias get to them first.
It was interesting to follow given its hybrid streamer/theatrical and studio/indie distribution model, indicative of the changing indie landscape. In recent years, a few of these high-demand packages have been scooped up by streamers in global deals that were too good for producers to turn down. This project took a different course. Either way, Ritchie and his partners on the film, including regular writing production collaborator Ivan Atkinson and former studio executive Josh Berger in his first film since leaving Warner Bros. are positioned to be able to drive their own fundraising strategy and ultimately retain a high level of creative and financial control.
While the U.S. and international deals were done separately, the result is intriguing as to what this means for the combined buying power of Amazon and MGM going forward. Will this model be something the pair will look to do more of in the years to come as the dust settles on Amazon’s $8.4 billion mega-deal for the James Bond studio.
It was Amazon that shelled out over 50% of the budget on this one, we get it. Prime Video has secured the rights in Europe, Australia, Canada, Latin America, and South Africa, and also has the post-theatrical window in the United States. MGM has a traditional theatrical window in the United States and will release through its United Artists Releasing banner.
However, Amazon and MGM weren’t the only key partners. Significant pre-production funding came from Russian financier and tech company Yandex, which owns local streamer Kinopoisk. Kinopoisk has all rights in the territories of the CIS. Their investment marks the first time a Russian streaming service has played a key role in co-financing a film by a major international director.
Independent distributors also secured the rights to the film in Asia and the Middle East. Buyers include Kino in Japan, Joy N Cinema in Korea, Moviecloud in Taiwan and Phars in the Middle East. Local tax credits in Spain and the Comerica bank are also pieces of the financial puzzle.
Ritchie will direct from a script he co-wrote with Atkinson and Marn Davies. Ritchie and Atkinson are producing through their Toff Guys production banner alongside Berger and John Friedberg of STXfilms. Olga Filipuk will serve as executive producer for Yandex-owned Kinopoisk.
Oscar-nominated Gyllenhaal exits Antoine Fuqua The guilty and Michael Bay the ambulance.
Ritchie said today: “Jake Gyllenhaal is a fantastic talent. I finally found a perfect project that we can collaborate on.
STX’s John Friedberg commented, “This will be our third collaboration with Guy and STX is proud to be able to support amazing filmmakers like him, especially when working with such solid hardware – I’m delighted we have been able to put this movie together alongside Ivan and Josh.
“Guy Ritchie is one of Russia’s most beloved directors. Supporting a leading global filmmaker with a massive audience in Russia is a key strategic step for Kinopoisk as we begin to develop and co-produce international projects. We are delighted to begin our relationship with Guy, Josh and Ivan on such an important film,” added Olga Filipuk.
Ritchie and MGM/UAR recently teamed up to man’s anger, starring Jason Statham. The Director and STX combined on Gentlemen and action shot to come Operation Fortune: Cunning War, also featuring Statham. While Chairman and Managing Director of Warner Bros in the UK, Ireland and Spain, Berger oversaw the releases of Ritchie’s films, including Rock’n Rolla, uncle’s man and king arthur.