Late Night: Mindy Kaling’s Sundance Fest Comedy, Acquired by Amazon

Amazon has offered a $13 million deal for Late Night, a timely comedy about diversity in a late night talk show writers room, which is written by, produced by, and stars Mindy Kaling.

It is the first major sale out of the 2019 Sundance Film Fest.

Emma Thompson plays a prickly comic who grudgingly takes an Indian-American writer (played by Kaling) under her wing after she is shamed into hiring more women and minorities.

Familiar Story, Fresh Perspective

Kaling has said that she saw Late Night as a chance to retell a familiar story of someone trying to break into the entertainment business from a fresh perspective.

“So much of this movie is about being a fan and being on the outside of the entertainment business,” Kaling said.  “That story has been told many, many, many times by 52-year-old white men, and I love all those movies. And as a comedy nerd I’ve always identified with them because it was the closest thing that I could identify with. There was no one like me making those kind of films.”

The comedy is one of the biggest deals in Sundance history, just short of the $17.5 million that Fox Searchlight paid for “The Birth of a Nation,” but outpacing the $12.5 million that Netflix paid for “Mudbound,” or the $12 million that Amazon paid for “The Big Sick.” Most of those deals were for global rights, but the “Late Night” sale is only for the U.S.

Late Night was originally set up at Fox 2000 with Paul Feig as director. However, Kaling’s pregnancy and an illness in Thompson’s family delayed the film’s production.  Feig became unavailable when he made the Blake Lively thriller, A Simple Favor.

As a result, Kaling went the independent route, and hired minority filmmaker Nisha Ganatra (“Chutney Popcorn”) to direct.

Amazon has not been active in recent film markets, preferring to produce its own movies.

However, some compared Kaling’s comedy to The Big Sick, a 2017 indie comedy that Amazon bought out of Sundance, which was a huge commercial success, earning $56.4 million globally.

Late Night co-stars John Lithgow, Amy Ryan, and Ike Barinholtz.