Hold On, Cannes! Neal Moritz’s Female-Fronted ‘Cliffhanger’ Reboot Climbs With Rocket Science, CAA

EXCLUSIVE: Twenty six years after the iconic original debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, Neal Moritz’s (The Fast And The Furious) awaited reboot of hit action-thriller Cliffhanger is heading to the Cannes Marché where it will be among the buzziest projects on sale.

In a zeitgeisty twist, the reimagined, big-canvas package will have a female lead — casting is underway — and a female director in the shape of Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night). Aquaman star Jason Momoa is talks for a key cameo.

Rocket Science will launch international sales on the hot prospect in Cannes after prizing rights away from StudioCanal in a competitive situation. The latter had tried to mount a remake a couple of times with Moritz in the past decade and it was a long negotiation to convince the French studio to part with the property given its strong box office potential.

Cliffhanger has long been a passion project for Fast And The Furious franchise producer Moritz whose Original Film will produce with Rocket Science. Both partners see franchise potential in the film. The new script comes from Sascha Penn (Creed II) with a first draft expected in coming weeks. Moritz and Toby Jaffe will produce under their Original Film banner alongside Thorsten Schumacher and partner Lars Sylvest for Rocket Science, which will also finance.

CAA Media Finance initially brokered the deal between Rocket Science and StudioCanal and will rep North America and China. Pic is tentatively slated for a spring 2020 shoot. Front Row Entertainment is backing development.

Renny Harlin’s vertiginous 1993 classic starred Sylvester Stallone (not involved this go around) as a haunted mountain rescuer who is pitted against a group of criminals who have lost their $100M stash during a plane crash in the Rocky Mountains. The film’s spectacular, gravity-defying stunts and Sly’s on-screen pull helped the film to more than $255M worldwide off an estimated $70M budget.

Amirpour’s reimagining will be budgeted in the same region and won’t hold back when it comes to scale and visuals. The production already has a slug of undisclosed equity in place and will likely be looking for a studio partner in the U.S. We can reveal the striking first Cannes artwork for the film here, which includes the original tagline ‘Hold On’.

Amirpour is an intriguing fit for Cliffhanger at a time when audiences are crying out for bold departures and off-beat takes on tried and trusted genre formulas. The distinctive Iranian-American filmmaker grabbed industry attention with her acclaimed and visually striking Sundance 2014 horror A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and followed that up with surrealist dreamscape The Bad Batch, which starred Momoa, Suki Waterhouse, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, and won the Special Jury Prize at Venice. Also known for her buzzy soundtracks, Amirpour is next set to direct the Kate Hudson starrer Blood Moon, produced by John Lesher (Birdman), with principal photography beginning in New Orleans next month.

She has been planning Cliffhanger for more than 12 months and last year went on a ten-day hiking tour in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps to get herself in the zone.

The filmmaker told us, “I instantly knew the elements of the story I wanted to tell. There’s a special place in my heart for an action-survival movie. I’ve always been attracted to the theme of mountain climbers who, like filmmakers, have a certain madness to them. I love genre and fantasy and in this type of survival film you’re playing with real fear.”

“I am very excited to partner with Original Film and Rocket Science, who share my passion for this character-driven, high-adrenaline story; the survival film is one of my favorite genres,” she continued. “We are setting out to create a thrill-ride on the mountain which taps into the primal side of an action movie, where you see what a person is capable of doing to survive in the most extreme situations, pushed to the limits. Add to that some high-stakes espionage and a badass female mountain climber as the lead and it becomes a truly epic reinvention of what made the original Cliffhanger movie so fun and so thrilling.”

Moritz commented, “I’ve been wanting to re-make this adrenaline filled survival thriller with a strong female protagonist – both in front of and behind the camera – for some time. The elements came together with Ana Lily and Rocket Science and we look forward to gathering the rest of the pieces. I’ve always wanted to make the movies I want to see — big at their core with characters which connect to the audience while simultaneously encouraging them to leave their house and go to a theater. Cliffhanger is just that, in what we hope will be the first of an entirely new franchise.”

Extreme climbing has seemingly never been more in vogue on the big screen with tentpoles regularly including sequences in their chase scenes. Thrilling climbing doc Free Solo took this year’s Best Documentary Oscar and $25M worldwide while similarly-themed 2018 film The Dawn Wall won a SXSW audience award and performed well at the box office. A few years ago Balthasar Kormakur’s engrossing Everest was an international hit taking more than $200M global.

Upcoming for big-canvas specialist Moritz are Sonic The Hedgehog for Paramount and the upcoming Bloodshot starring Vin Diesel.

Amirpour is repped by CAA; Momoa is represented by WME; and Penn is represented by Lit Entertainment Group and Attorney Gordon Bobb.

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