Fox takes 'Once' from Sundance to US


FOX Searchlight, the speciality division of 20th Century Fox, has acquired the US distribution rights to Once, John Carney's Dublin musical which won the World Cinema Audience Award at the recent Sundance festival. A number of other companies bid for the film, and Fox Searchlight is said to have paid a six-figure sum for the rights.

The deal was concluded with the film's international sales agent, Summit Entertainment, and its Irish production company, Samson Films. Fox Searchlight's recent releases include the Oscar-nominated Notes on a Scandal, The Last King of Scotland and Little Miss Sunshine.

Surprisingly, Once has only one nomination - Glen Hansard for best music - at tonight's Irish Film & Television Awards ceremony in Dublin.

In other awards news, even though The Wind That Shakes the Barley was deemed worthy of the Palme d'Or in Cannes last year, and Ken Loach is the first British director to win that award since Mike Leigh in 1996, his film has not received a nomination for the Bafta awards in London on Sunday.

Oscar for TCD professor

A lecturer in the electronic and electrical engineering department at Trinity College Dublin will receive an Academy Award when the Scientific and Technical Awards are presented tomorrow night. Trinidad native Dr Anil Kokaram will receive his award for the design and development of the Furnace integrated suite of software tools, which "robustly utilises temporal coherence for enhancing visual effects in motion picture sequences". Maggie Gyllenhaal will be the presenter at tomorrow's Los Angeles ceremony.

A prison break in Dublin

Shooting is now under way in Dublin on The Escapist, a prison break thriller featuring an impressive cast led by Brian Cox and Joseph Fiennes. Cox plays a prisoner who is 13 years into serving a life sentence. Desperate to make peace with his estranged daughter, who is dying in hospital, he enlists the help of fellow inmates to organise an escape plan.

The cast also includes Liam Cunningham, who has three acting nominations at tonight's Irish Film and Television Awards (for The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Showbands and Murphy's Law), along with Steven Mackintosh (Small Engine Repair, The Secret Life of Words), Damian Lewis (Keane, Band of Brothers), Dominic Cooper (The History Boys, Starter for Ten) and Brazilian actor Seu Jorge (City of God, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).

Body snatchers return

Dublin-born, New York-based writer-director Glenn McQuaid is set to make his feature film debut with I Sell the Dead, which expands on his 2005 short film, The Resurrection Apprentice. A supernatural picture set in the 18th century, the feature will star Dominic Monaghan (Charlie Pace in Lost and Merry in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Larry Fessenden (Broken Flowers) as grave robbers, and Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as "the imposing Fr Murphy".

Brando as we rarely saw him

Marlon Brando, who died in 2004, is the subject of a two-part documentary to be shown in May on the Turner Classic Movies network in the US. The producers promise "never-before-seen footage of Brando at work and at play, and a series of rarely seen in-depth interviews with the actor". Among those contributing are Al Pacino, James Caan, Dennis Hopper, Angie Dickinson, Edward Norton, Martin Scorsese, and Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American actress who rejected Brando's 1973 Oscar for The Godfather on his behalf.

Pact is flushed away

DreamWorks has terminated its partnership with Aardman Animation after five years, in which they made Chicken Run, the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and the commercial failure, Flushed Away.

"While I will always be a fan and an admirer of Aardman's work, our different business goals no longer support each other," says DreamWorks supremo Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Personally, I think this is the right move for Aardman. Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit were works of genius, up there with the best of both Disney and Pixar in terms of creativity, entertainment and universal appeal. But the largely CG Flushed Away was a noisy mess of a movie that, like most of the animated movies coming out of America at the moment, tried too darn hard."