Searchlight Aggressively Pursuing World Rights to Olivia Wilde’s ‘Perfect’ at EFM

Manori Ravindran and Matt Donnelly

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Searchlight Pictures has emerged as the frontrunner for the Olivia Wilde-directed gymnastics movie “Perfect,” amid a days-long bidding war out of Berlin’s EFM.

Variety understands that the studio is ‘heavily pursuing’ world rights to the hot title — one of a crop of female-led projects at the market — with A24, Warner Bros. and Neon also in the picture. The deal hasn’t yet closed.

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The feature tells the story of American gymnast Kerri Strug and is based upon her memoir, written with John P. Lopez, “Landing On My Feet, A Diary of Dreams.”

The film follows her career-defining performance at the 1996 Olympics, when the 18-year-old Strug executed her routine on a severely injured ankle to help the gymnastics team to its first gold medal.

The “Booksmart” director presented the film to buyers in Berlin on Wednesday and was immediately met with an enthusiastic response. Talks began in earnest with a bidding war scenario quickly emerging and deal-making dragging into the early hours late last week and into the weekend.

The deal is brokered domestically by CAA Media Finance, while FilmNation is handling international. Riverstone Pictures and Pulse Films are producing from a script by “Borg vs. McEnroe” writer Ronnie Sandahl. Producers include Nik Bower for Riverstone Pictures and Thomas Benski for Pulse Films, alongside Jeremy Baxter and Moss Barclay. Executive producers include Wilde, Deepak Nayer, Marisa Clifford and Sandahl.

The deal for “Perfect” is one of the first major tie-ups to emerge from this year’s EFM, which has been slow going, with few titles gaining traction in the last four days.

Despite rapturous reviews, Wilde’s feature debut “Booksmart” lost momentum in the awards race and failed to generate box office heat.

The actor-director was open about what she perceived as the marketing shortcomings of her distributor Annapurna, which would make a global prestige engine like Searchlight an ideal suitor If she’s hoping to avoid the same fate for “Perfect.”

On the other hand, money can’t buy the brand of cool A24 affords an acquisition film, not to mention their own savvy for landing Oscars. An edgier distributor for a broad Olympic narrative certainly worked for Neon and “I, Tonya,” landing an Oscar for supporting star Allison Janney and earning over $53 million worldwide on a reported $10 million budget.

Searchlight and CAA had no immediate comment.

Deadline first reported the deal.

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