Fox Searchlight buys "The Surrogate" for $6 million

Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:51am EST

Cast member Helen Hunt talks to the media before the screening of the film ''The Surrogate'' during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 23, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Cast member Helen Hunt talks to the media before the screening of the film ''The Surrogate'' during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart

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PARK CITY, Utah (TheWrap.com) - "The Surrogate," a drama starring Helen Hunt and John Hawkes as a man who hires a professional sex surrogate, has sold to Fox Searchlight for $6 million in the largest acquisition of the Sundance Film Festival so far, TheWrap has confirmed.

The independent studio also is in final negotiations to buy "Beasts of the Southern Wild," another hot film at Sundance.

Ben Lewin wrote and directed "The Surrogate," which is based on the true story of Mark O'Brien, a poet and journalist who spent much of his life confined to an iron lung. When O'Brien decides to lose his virginity, he turns to a sex surrogate, played by Hunt.

William H. Macy plays Father Brendan, a priest who counsels O'Brien.

The trippy "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which premiered Friday, won the Sundance Institute's Indian Paintbrush Producer's Award and has had the festival buzzing.

The film is about Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl who lives with her father Wink in "the Bathtub," a southern Delta community in an apocalyptic state.

The film has been one of the most talked-about narrative features at the festival, and a number of exhibitors have circled it. But many also see it as a challenging sell to audiences (among other things, the film features an army of prehistoric creatures).

Searchlight, which has bought a number of daring films in the past year including the NC-17 "Shame," sees the film in the vein of magical realism and will position it that way, one insider said.

Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar wrote "Beasts," which Zeitlin also directed.

Numerous other films were in deep negotiations and several more sales were expected to close in the next day or two.

(Editing by Chris Michaud)

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