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Ralph Fiennes’ ‘The White Crow’ Picked Up at Sony Pictures Classics

Film details ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s defection from Russia during the height of the Cold War

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American rights for Ralph Fiennes’ film “The White Crow,” the studio said on Monday.

The film, inspired by Julie Kavanaugh’s book “Rudolf Nureyev: The Life,” was directed by Fiennes and written by Oscar-nominated David Hare (“The Hours,” “The Reader”). Along with North America, Sony nabbed rights to distribute the film in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Asia (excluding China, Japan, and Singapore), and Benelux.

“The White Crow” captures the physicality and brilliance of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, whose escape to the West stunned the world at the height of the Cold War. Nureyev emerged as one of ballet’s most famous stars, and though seen as a wild and beautiful dancer he was limited by the world of 1950s Leningrad. His flirtation with Western artists and ideas led him into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with the KGB. The film offers insight into Nureyev’s dangerous defection, masterminded by the dancer’s great friend, a 21-year-old Parisian, Clara Saint. In an astonishing finale at Le Bourget airport in Paris.

“I’m really delighted to be reuniting with [Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents] Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and the team at Sony Pictures Classics,” Fiennes said in a statement. “It’s been a huge challenge to make this film and there’s no question that with their vast experience with such a wide range of films, SPC is the right home for ‘The White Crow.’ It’s great news.”

World-class ballet performer Oleg Ivenko stars as Rudolf Nureyev, alongside Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) as Clara Saint, and Fiennes as the famous Russian ballet coach, Alexander Pushkin. The cast also includes dancer Sergei Polunin, Chulpan Khamatova, Olivier Rabourdin, Raphaël Personnaz, and Louis Hofmann.

Fiennes previously worked with Barker and Bernard, appearing in Sony Pictures Classics’ “Spider,” “The White Countess,” and “Invisible Woman,” the last of which he also directed.

“Ralph Fiennes has fully captured the times and early life of Rudolph Nureyev in the most thrilling way possible with the pulsing energy of the man himself,” Sony said in a statement. “Also, ‘The White Crow’ is especially timely. From Nureyev’s rich life experience in Russia and Paris to his suspenseful defection to the West, we are immersed in an authentic story we’ve never seen before. This is one of those rare movies that crosses so many borders culturally as a satisfying entertainment. We look forward to bringing Ralph’s movie to the public.”

HanWay Films, which is handling worldwide sales, also co-financed the film together with BBC Films and Rogue Black.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Sony Pictures Classics on the film,” said HanWay Films managing director Gabrielle Stewart in a statement. “They have loved the project from the very start and ‘The White Crow’ has all the hallmarks of a high-quality SPC release.”

“The White Crow” was developed by BBC Films and Gabrielle Tana (“The Duchess,” “Philomena”), who also produces with Carolyn Marks Blackwood through Magnolia Mae Films together with Fiennes through Lonely Dragon Productions, and François Ivernel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Iron Lady”) through the French branch of his company, Montebello Productions. Artist and filmmaker Andrew Levitas (“The Art of Getting By”) produces and finances through his companies Metalwork Pictures and Rogue Black respectively.

The deal was negotiated between Sony Pictures Classics and Gabrielle Stewart for HanWay Films.