Indie Companies: Paladin, New Kid on the Block

Paladin, the new independent film company formed by veteran distribution executive Mark Urman, will release The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, the acclaimed drama based on a heretofore unproduced original screenplay by legendary writer Tennessee Williams. The film, which stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Evans will play at select film festivals this Fall and qualify for year-end awards by opening in exclusive New York and Los Angeles engagements in late December. Top-ten market expansion will follow in early 2010. 
Oscar- winner Ellen Burstyn, Oscar nominee Ann-Margret, Mamie Gummer, and Will Patton also star in the period romance which was directed by award-winning short filmmaker and stage and screen actress Jodie Markell, in her feature debut, and produced by Brad Michael Gilbert.
Widely considered the most important American playwright of the post-WWII era, Williams wrote the Loss of a Teardrop Diamond screenplay at the height of his late-50’s heyday, amid such classic plays, (which themselves were adapted into classic films) as “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,”  “Suddenly, Last Summer,” “Sweet Bird of Youth,” and “Orpheus Descending.”  Set in the Roaring Twenties in Williams’ (and Markell’s) home town of Memphis, the film tells the story of Fisher Willow (Howard) a headstrong young heiress who chafes under the constraints of proper Southern society, and who rebels by asking the impoverished but handsome son of her father’s caretaker, Jimmy Dobyne, (Evans) to escort her to the major social events of the season. The relationship is purely a business arrangement at the outset, with Fisher paying for Jimmy’s time and attention, but when she discovers that she really loves him, she finds it impossible to re-write the rules and earn the affection she tried to buy.
Howard’s ability to evoke the dueling strength and fragility of this quintessential Williams heroine, along with her stunning mastery of his lush, poetic language, firmly establish her as one of the best actresses of her generation, and place her Fisher Willow in a pantheon of performances that includes Vivien Leigh’s Blanche DuBois, Elizabeth Taylor’s Maggie the Cat, Anna Magnani’s Serafina delle Rose, and Geraldine Page’s Alexandra Del Lago.
Paladin, formed in July, reunites Urman with Amanda Sherwin, who will serve as Head of Marketing, and Michael Tuckman, who will be in charge of Theatrical Sales, two key executives who worked with him in those capacities for seven years at THINKFilm, the company he-co-founded in 2001. At THINK, the team oversaw the distribution of over 80 films, including such acclaimed and award-winning titles as “Spellbound”, “Born Into Brothels” “The Aristocrats”, “Half Nelson” and “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead,” garnering seven Academy Award nominations in as many years, and two Oscars.  Sherwin was also VP of Marketing during Urman’s Co-Presidency of Lionsgate Releasing, and during their tenure the company amassed nine Academy Award nominations and three Oscars.
Another new addition to the Paladin slate is Handsome Harry, which had its world premiere at this Spring’s Tribeca Film Festival. The contemporary road movie, about a man who visits a series of old Navy buddies in an attempt to reconcile with his past, is the latest film by Bette Gordon, whose 1983 feature, “Variety,” is one of the signal works of the early American “indie” movement.  It stars Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, Aidan Quinn, John Savage, and Campbell Scott and will open in early 2010. 
Opening in November of this year is the comedy Splinterheads, starring Thomas Middleditch, Rachael Taylor, Lea Thompson, and Christopher McDonald, which premiered earlier this year at SXSW.  The film was written and directed by Brant Serson, whose previous film, “Blackballed,” won the SXSW Audience Award in 2004.
Paladin’s inaugural release is Disgrace, the prize-winning adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee.  The film, starring two-time Oscar-nominee John Malkovich, opens in New York on September 18 and expands to other key markets on September 25.