Capote goes to Infinity and beyond

Category: Shattered News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: February 20, 2006 | Publication: Playback | Author: Marcus Robinson
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Of all the films that Sony Pictures and MGM released in 2005, the one that's making the most Oscar noise - with five nominations - is an unassuming little movie shot in Manitoba over winter 2004. And it all began with a sushi lunch.

William Vince, producer and partner at Infinity Features in Vancouver, was at Sundance a couple of years ago screening his feature Saved! (starring Macaulay Culkin and Mandy Moore), when entertainment lawyer Sue Bodine pitched him a script based on biographer Gerald Clarke's book on Truman Capote and his relationship with inmate Perry Edward Smith, while Smith was on death row for his part in the killing of the Clutter family.

"I didn't know who Capote was," admits Vince, who describes Infinity's mandate as creating a foundation in Canada to produce movies for worldwide distribution. "I read the script and it was so clever and well-written. It was a great story."

His interest eventually led to a sushi restaurant in New York and a crucial lunch meeting with director Bennett Miller, screenwriter Dan Futterman and actor Philip Seymour Hoffman - best friends since theater camp in 1984, and who, according to Vince, had likely made a pact to get Capote made together or not at all.

"I looked into Phil's eyes," relates Vince, adding that he could see that Hoffman was having second thoughts even before the California rolls arrived. "There are lots of people who come into the room and say, 'Hey, I'm going to finance your movie.' Phil's a no-bullshit guy, so he was looking at me like, 'Are you really going to do this, because I have other movies I should be going to make.' I said, 'Yes, I want to make this movie.' And I walked out of the restaurant." Vince didn't know how he was going to do it, but he had a few ideas.

The trouble at the time was that not only had the Futterman script already made the rounds unsuccessfully in Hollywood, but there were no less than three Capote projects floating around, including the US$15-million Infamous, starring Sandra Bullock as author and Capote confidante Harper Lee and Toby Jones as Capote.

"How do you go to a studio and say 'I've got Bennett Miller, I've got Dan Futterman, and I've got Philip Seymour Hoffman in a biopic about a gay writer,'" Vince muses. "'Do you want to put up $12 million?' You won't even get in the elevator, let alone get a meeting."

The star power behind the Bullock version forced Vince to use the equity he had built up over 18 years as a producer putting together such films as The Snow Walker and Just Friends (with Ryan Reynolds), which had enabled Infinity to secure points on the back end of its projects. "I had a really great relationship with [film executive] Danny Rosett at MGM, because we did Saved!" If Rosett said no, Vince's worst-case scenario was fronting the budget himself.

As luck would have it, Rosett was a huge Hoffman fan, but willing to risk only US$5 million. Infinity budgeted the film at US$6 million based on coproing with Winnipeg prodco Eagle Vision and shooting in Manitoba to take advantage of the tax credits (which were increased last March by an additional 10% - to 45% from 35%), but the province turned out to offer more than a tax incentive.

"You can have all the tax credits in the world you want, but it has to work creatively," says Carole Vivier, Manitoba Film & Sound CEO. "And the locations just worked fantastically for the project."

The filmmakers fell in love with locales including the Stoney Mountain Institution, which doubled for the Kansas State Penitentiary, where Capote would come to meet one-on-one with Smith for research on his now-classic novel In Cold Blood.

Vivier has known Vince for many years and has her own theory on why Infinity has become so successful.

"I think Bill has always done it his own way. He's got his own model. And it appears to work well," she says. "The money is obviously very important, but you also want a filmmaker who cares. He has that as well, which is the best combination in a producer."

Her confidence in both Vince and the project was so strong, in fact, that when the budget blew up to US$7.5 million - partly as a result of fluctuations in the Canadian dollar (which went from $0.63 to $0.68) ญญ- MFS took a modest equity position.

"My dream is that Manitoba becomes the indie capital of the world," Vivier adds. "Having a location that you can go to where you're not compromising the level of the work and you're able to have savings that ultimately show on the screen is really important to filmmakers, and we can provide that here."

The success of Capote, which includes Oscar noms for best picture, actor (Hoffman), supporting actress (Catherine Keener), director (Bennett) and adapted screenplay (Futterman), has "knocked down the doors in Hollywood" for Infinity, says Vince. But despite a slate of 30 to 40 projects in development, he has plans to produce no more than one or two features per year.

Soon to go into production is Butterfly on a Wheel, to be shot in B.C., a US$20-million cautionary thriller starring Pierce Brosnan, coproed with Mel Gibson's Icon Entertainment International and to be distributed by Maple Pictures in Canada.

Vince shares producer credit on Capote with Infinity's Dave Valleau and Michael Ohoven and A-Line Pictures' Caroline Baron. The film has taken in about US$19 million at the North American box office, according to Variety.