Film and TV

Producer of Dallas Buyer's Club Talks About Why It's Been So Hard to Get Movie Made

I got a call yesterday from the mighty Robbie Brenner, one of the producers of the fingers-crossed film The Dallas Buyer's Club, which, as you're surely aware by now, is the long-in-the-works adaptation of the true-life tale of Dallas electrician Ron Woodroof and his journey from homophobe to AIDS sufferer in 1986 to smuggler of life-saving drugs. As noted earlier this week, producers and film reps are in France at this very moment trying to make a deal for the U.S. and international rights -- deals, Brenner hopes, that will lead to getting the movie made after a decade's worth of tentative starts and dead stops.

"That's the intention," Brenner says. "But we're living in a world where it's very hard to get financing, especially for a movie about a cowboy from Texas living with AIDS."

Right now, at least, Matthew McConaughey is signed on to play Woodroof; Hilary Swank is also attached. And Jean-Marc Vallée is going to direct.

Brenner, who's at Relativity Media in Los Angeles, has been with the project for 10 years -- back when it was at Universal Studios, back when Brad Pitt and then Ryan Gosling were attached to star. She's been with it through myriad writers and directors, among them Guillermo Arriaga (Babel, 21 Grams) and Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland). But, she says, Universal balked repeatedly when it had the chance to make the movie.

"They collected millions in fees and had many people write on it," she says. "This is a movie that needs to be made outside of the studio system with a good filmmaker, and Matthew is a good ol' cowboy from Texas. So we're trying to raise the money, which is very hard. I've cried a lot of tears over this movie, and the guy who wrote it almost lost his life over it. It's a very touchy subject for a lot of us, but we're living in a world where money's hard to come by, and people don't want to make a movie about a guy who contracts HIV.

"It's a specialty movie," she continues. "Maybe it can cross over like Brokeback Mountain, and you hope for that, but it's a subject matter where people feel like, oh, well, it' been around 25 years. People don't go, 'Wow.' They don't think it's a hot topic. They say it's a little stale."

But Brenner refuses to cave to the naysayers, which is why she picked it up from Universal when it fell into turnaround recently. She says she has one year to get it made. After that, more than likely, it will fall once more into limbo, and it more than likely will never be heard from again.

"It's a great story, an amazing coming-of-age story about a man who's despicable in a lot of ways and learns how to see the world in a different light," she says. "It's an incredible story, which is what attracted Brad and Ryan. It's an incredible actor's piece and a great drama with a thriller element to it. It needs to be more about this guy as a character."

And, yes, there is a chance it will be made in Dallas -- especially with a limited budget, which makes it ripe for incentives should the state Legislature leave them in place.

"I think that's something we'd like to explore," she says. "But we have to get financing together and make it real. Then we'll discuss where and when and how to make it."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky