July 22, 2024

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EXCLUSIVE: Netflix closed a $20 million deal on Hit Man, making the biggest deal at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival and of the year for that matter. After the Richard Linklater-directed noir comic thriller debuted to raves at Venice, the film was expected to fetch the biggest deal of the fall festivals so far. Hit Man did not disappoint. Hit Man stars Top Gun Maverick’s Glen Powell and Adria Arjona (Andor) playing the most unlikely romantic partners, in performances that will boost each of their careers. Especially Powell, who co-wrote with Linklater what will be a major star turn for him. Netflix got US, UK, Australia/New Zealand, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, and Iceland. There is also a theatrical component to the deal, I’ve heard.

Heading into its final weekend, TIFF had been slow so far on the deal front, but this is the second big one for Netflix, with the Anna Kendrick-directed Woman of the Hour getting a Netflix deal around $11 million. More deals should start flowing after this one was settled. It didn’t show until Monday because TIFF doesn’t premiere anything that premiered elsewhere until after the first weekend. There are plenty of films that pleased critics and audiences, and a lot of movies will find homes, as will some films that were screened privately.

I’d heard bids lined up before the film premiered Monday, but that the sellers at CAA Media Finance which did the deal with AGC Studios and Cinetic Media waited until the premiere before beginning to field offers. AGC financed Hit Man with Shiv Hans and Monarch Media.

Linklater and Powell (on their fourth collaboration) wrote a script loosely based on a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth. Linklater said he read it back in 2001, but couldn’t find a handle until Powell suggested a good one. They’d worked together previously on Apollo 10 ½ and Everybody Wants Some! They leaned into the life of Gary Johnson, a school teacher who kept a side job with the New Orleans Police Dept as a phony hit man who went on meetings with folks trying to hire him to kill a cheating spouse, or business partner. Powell plays the teacher as a straight laced dull guy, but turns loose the charm and sense of danger as Johnson. He quickly warms to the personality of a fearless and cocky killer convincing enough to get arrests and convictions of numerous folks soliciting his services. Things get complicated with a mysterious and gorgeous young woman (Arjona) meets the hit man and asks him to bump off a husband who is a suffocating and abusive presence. The smitten hit man dissuades her from going forward. They soon connect romantically, and he faces the prospect of concealing his identity to a woman he is fast falling for, as the circle closes in on him when she might be a factor in another crime.

Hit Man is an AGC Studios, Shivhans Pictures and Monarch Media co-production with A Barnstorm Co. and Aggregate Films Production In Association with Cinetic Media and Detour Film. Powell and Arjona star with Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Molly Bernard and Evan Holtzman.

The producers are Mike Blizzard, Linklater Powell, and Aggregate’s Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan. The exec producers are Stuart Ford, Zach Garrett, Miguel A. Palos Jr., Shivani Rawat, Julie Goldstein, Vicky Patel, Steve Barnett, Alan Powell, John Sloss, Scott Brown and Megan Creydt.

CAA Media Finance and Cinetic Media brokered it with Netflix and AGC’s Business & Legal Affairs’ Anant Tamirisa.

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