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Cannes Talk: Russell Levine, Route One Topper

Variety logo Variety 5/27/2017 Dave McNary
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Russell Levine, who heads Route One, is heading for the Cannes Film Festival for the third time. Route One is a producer on “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway, “The Circle,”  starring Tom Hanks, the Jenny Slate Sundance comedy “Landline,” which has sold to Amazon, and recently announced they are producing the Damien Chazelle script “The Claim” and the Fisher Stevens-directed project “Palmer.”

What was your most memorable meal in Cannes?

We had met a French producer during a meal at a bouillabaisse restaurant in Cannes and he asked me and my wife to come with them to a restaurant the next night. So we showed up and they said we were not properly dressed and [they] wound up buying us clothes. So that was by far my most memorable meal in Cannes.

 It is expensive to get to Cannes. What are the best reasons to go to Cannes?

Almost anything can happen. I do make a point of not [scheduling] meetings with people I can see here. I see friends from Toronto, Asia, Vancouver. And you run into friends, and it occurs to me, “I really need to sit down with that person.”

 You are doing panels with Winston Baker in Cannes. What’s the value of that?

There are people from all over the world. People from all over the world show up to Sundance but it’s kind of a thin group. I don’t know how to put my finger on it. People from everywhere show up at Cannes and it’s a deep group.

 What project will you be talking about in Cannes?

I started the company in 2009 and attached Damien Chazelle to “The Claim” back in 2010 before he did “Whiplash.” He was 24 at the time. As long as I’ve known him, he’s really down to earth.

 What’s the status of “The Claim”?

We’re trying to keep from pissing everyone off because we can’t have everyone direct it and we can’t have everyone act in it. The script is really tight — a great Hitchcockian thriller. We’re hoping to shoot it in October.

 Did Route One turn out like you expected?

It could not have turned out more differently. I was a writer in the 1980s, then left the business for 20 years. I started a biotech communications web site and they asked me to raise some money for this company. I ran the business part for a few years but things weren’t moving fast enough so I moved down here three years ago.

 Your first film at Route One was “A Walk in the Woods.”

It was a nice way to start. It had started with Robert Redford and Paul Newman 13 years ago. It had a lot directors on it but it really got going when Redford moved over to CAA.

 What were you doing in Cannes two years ago?

I just did a lot of meetings. We were selling “Free State of Jones” but this time we have a lot to talk about with “The Claim” and “Palmer.”

How do you manage at Cannes to keep from staying up for three days straight?

I try to space things out with the meetings. I will go to a few parties. I try to see one or two movies if I can while I’m there.

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