Lionsgate has paid $7 million for the U.S. distribution rights to “American Ultra,” a comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart that will enter production in April, according to two individuals with knowledge of the deal. Lionsgate bought the rights on the strength of the script, written by Max Landis, and CAA’s overall package, which includes the two stars, “Project X” director Nima Nourizadeh and a handful of producers.
Eisenberg will play an unwitting stoner who becomes the subject of a government operation while Stewart will play his girlfriend. Stewart has been very busy in the independent space since she concluded the “Twilight” saga, starring in Guantanamo Bay drama “Camp X-Ray,” which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Eisenberg, whose voice will be heard in the upcoming “Rio 2,” recently agreed to play Lex Luthor in Warner Bros.’ upcoming Batman/Superman movie.
The two last acted alongside one another in Greg Mottola’s “Adventureland,” a dramedy that earned stellar reviews. That film was not a huge commercial success, but “Project X,” Nourizadeh’s debut feature, was. It grossed just shy of $100 million worldwide at the box office two years ago.
Dealmaking for Nourizadeh’s follow-up began at the European Film Market in Berlin, and sales agents have been saying all year that a lot of the biggest film deals are now happening between festivals and markets rather than on the ground.
The $7 million deal marks another huge score for producer Anthony Bregman, whose film “Can a Song Save Your Life?” scored the biggest deal at the Toronto Film Festival last September. Bregman produced “American Ultra” with David Alpert and Britton Rizzio of Circle of Confusion. Plamstar Media Capital’s Kevin Scott Frakes and Merced Media Partner’s Raj Brinder Singh are executive producers. The film begins production in a few weeks in New Orleans.