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"Robot and Frank," the quirky man-and-machine buddy movie that first screened at the Sundance Film Festival's Salt Lake City gala on Jan. 20, has been acquired by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.
The partnership bought both U.S. and North American distibution rights for the film that stars Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, with James Marsden, Liv Tyler and voice work by Peter Saarsgard. Sony also acquired distribution rights for Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, according to a company statement released Wednesday afternoon.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal is valued at just over $2 million.
"Jake's film shows us a future that is right around the corner, and I for one, can't wait for my own robot," said Sony official Joe Matukewicz, referring to first-time director Jake Schreier. Added Meyer Gottlieb, President of Samuel Goldwyn Films: "Our team fell in love with this clever, irreverent story anchored by Frank Langella's indelible performance.
Langella's performance is so terrific, in fact, that it's easy to assume the role of Frank, a crusty, but charming former burgler, who calls himself a "second-story man" was written for Langella. Frank's son presents him with a robot to serve as a health care aide. At first Frank is disgusted with himself for talking to "an appliance," but soon begins to teach the robot how to pick locks.
In fact, Schreier said the script came first, and Christopher Walken also considered Langella's role. "Each dropped out of each other's films," Schreier said at the film's premiere. Walken joked that that the story didn't make logical sense, asking "how can a robot be a second-story man when it can't climb stairs?"
"Every time we filmed a scene on the second floor, Frank would say to me: 'You know, this is why Walken wouldn't do this movie,'" the director said.
The film began as a film-school short, inspired by an NPR radio report about a Japanese initiative to create robots that could care for the elderly, said screenwriter Christopher Ford. It was filmed in 20 days in upstate New York last summer.
Ellen Fagg Weist
* Friday, Jan. 27, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian Theater, Ogden
* Saturday, Jan. 28, 6 p.m., Egyptian Theatre, Park City
*Sunday, Jan. 29, 3:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City