Multi-Oscar winner Ron Howard was at the American Film Market in Los Angeles this morning to stir up buyer interest in his upcoming Luciano Pavarotti documentary Pavarotti.
Howard, HanWay Films and producer Nigel Sinclair (Rush) hosted two busy buyer presentations for the film at the Shutters on the Beach hotel. The director’s enthusiasm for his opera singer subject and stirring footage impressed buyers we spoke to.
The doc biopic will feature memorable performances, including classic songs from Pavarotti’s Three Tenors days, previously unseen footage and talking heads including his widow Nicoletta and U2 frontman Bono. The project has buy-in from Pavarotti’s family and estate.
Howard told us after the private presentation, “It’s impossible to imagine that this kid would wind up as Pavarotti. The demands of his art-form were remarkable. It was almost an athletic achievement what he accomplished through performance. He had a great gift but that wasn’t all. He had charm, charisma, he chose to live his life in a state of appreciation and excitement and joy about what the world had to offer. That’s very inspiring. He also had a tremendous commitment and selflessness which is worth celebrating. At a time like this, today, that is a story worth reminding people about.”
The film will also have an event element to it, a smart addition at a time when event cinema is booming. Producer Sinclair, who collaborated with Howard on Rush and documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years revealed to us, “After the Beatles movie we showed performances from the famous Shea Stadium concert. With Pavarotti, which will be mixed in Dolby Atmos, we’re going to include three classic Pavarotti arias after the movie so audiences who have enjoyed the film can then sit and listen to three of his beautiful performances. That will be part of the buyers’ package on the movie.”
Howard enthused to buyers on multiple occasions, “Pavarotti’s life was an opera.” The famed Italian tenor, who came from humble roots and initially wanted to be a soccer goalkeeper, was struck down by a life-threatening illness at a young age. He would go on to become a cultural and global icon, selling more than 100M records, known for his legendary performances of Nessun Dorma, which became a theme for the 1990 World Cup. He was also known for his charity and philanthropical work. He passed in 2007.
HanWay and Sinclair’s White Horse are selling at the AFM. Pic is being made by Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment, Decca Records (the singer’s lifelong record label), Imagine Entertainment and White Horse Pictures. Currently in post-production, it is due to be ready next year.
As for Howard, his next narrative feature remains unknown but he and Imagine are currently developing a host of hot projects for film and TV, including features Hillbilly Elegy and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for Disney.
HanWay Films is understood to have closed two major deals on its Luciano Pavarotti documentary, which Ron Howard trumpeted to AFM buyers at a sizzle reel presentation at Shutters on the Beach on Saturday .
“I had no idea how charismatic he was,” Howard said of the late Italian tenor, whom he had admired from afar despite not being an opera aficionado prior to embarking on his third documentary.
Now in the final stages of a project that started two years ago and is expected to be ready by the first quarter of 2019, Howard told Screendaily, “We finished our editing and I am still playing Pavarotti every morning.”
However for Howard, the story of the world-renowned Pavarotti was very different to that of The Fab Four, whom he profiled in The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.
“There’s so much footage and he is so funny and wise and revealing in his interviews so I thought, ‘Let’s let him tell this story.’ It’s really a character study,” said Howard.
The sizzle showed Pavarotti at his first rehearsal with Placido Domingo and José Carreras in their incarnation as The Three Tenors, and previously unseen footage of Pavarotti singing in the Amazon rainforest, where he performed in the 1990s to a deserted Amazon Theatre that featured in the film Fizzcarraldo.
Pavarotti touches on the great tenor’s activism in later life and features on-camera contributions from Bono, and his widow Nicoletta Mantovani. Producer Jeanne Elfant Festa of White Horse Pictures was instrumental in getting the cooperation of Pavarotti’s first wife Adua Veroni, and Mantovani.
“It’s very clear from the film he is a world citizen,” said producer Nigel Sinclair of White Horse Pictures, who collaborated with Howard on The Beatles documentary. Sinclair told Screendaily the music will be mixed in Dolby Atmos. “Pavarotti’s voice has so much texture and listening to it, you can almost feel you can touch it.” Sinclair added that the plan is to play three arias sung by Pavarotti after theatrical presentations as a bonus for cinema-goers.
Earlier this year Imagine Documentaries and White Horse Pictures struck a non-exclusive partnership. “Every [documentary] so far has been a good filmmaking experience,” said Howard. ”I have really enjoyed it. The collaboration is great and virtually the same team that worked on The Beatles. I feel very supported – it’s a great safety net. I’ve been surprised by how much of my own storytelling sensibilities I am able to bring to the films and how much I lean about it.”
Pavarotti is being produced by Polygram Entertainment, Decca Records, Imagine Entertainment, and White Horse Pictures.
EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Documentaries and White Horse Pictures have entered into a multi-year, non-exclusive partnership. The arrangement was brokered by Imagine Entertainment Co-Chairman Michael Rosenberg, Imagine Documentaries President Justin Wilkes and White Horse Pictures Chairman Nigel Sinclair and President Nicholas Ferrall.
They will generate documentaries, which Wilkes will oversee with White Horse’s Docu head Jeanne Elfant-Festa and partner Cassidy Hartmann. Imagine’s expansion into docus was initiated by co-chairmen Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.
“Brian, Ron and I have had a long and successful relationship with award-winning producer Nigel Sinclair and White Horse, from the film Rush to the documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years and now on our documentary on world renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti, which is currently in production. We are excited for this opportunity and to be working together in this newly formed partnership,” said Rosenberg.
Said Sinclair: “We have had a great journey with Brian, Ron and Michael. Pavarotti is now our fourth collaboration, and we are very excited to work with Justin and continue our success together.”
Hartmann and Elfant-Festa are currently in production on Roger Ross Williams’ Untitled Apollo Theater Documentary. Elfant-Festa and Sinclair are working with Imagine on the Ron Howard-directed Pavarotti, and Ferrall is leading the Untitled Tupac Shakur Documentary.
With the recent announcement of the New York-based doc group, Imagine has been expanding its footprint in the premium documentary film and non-scripted TV space. Beyond The Beatles docu that Howard directed, they’ve over the years made Jay Z’s Made in America, Prophet’s Prey, Katy Perry: Part of Me, Inside Deep Throat, and Beyond The Mat. In addition to Pavarotti, the company is currently responsible for the hit National Geographic hybrid series Mars and Breakthrough.