EXCLUSIVE: Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter) and Oscar winner Riz Ahmed (The Long Goodbye) have joined Christos Nikou’s (Apples) anticipated English-language feature film debut Fingernails, we can reveal.
FilmNation is launching sales on the hot package at the Cannes market next week and is co-repping U.S. rights with CAA Media Finance and WME Independent.
Nikou’s lauded pandemic-themed debut Apples was a buzz title at the 2020 Venice Film Festival. He has scripted his new project with Sam Steiner and Apples co-writer Stavros Raptis.
Cate Blanchett’s Dirty Films is producing alongside Arrival outfit FilmNation Entertainment, which is also financing. Jerome Duboz will serve as executive producer. Carey Mulligan was previously attached to the project but is no longer aboard.
In the world of the surreal drama, described to us as a “grounded sci-fi love story,” a test has been discovered that measures whether couples are truly in love. To help couples succeed, love institutes have opened to guide them. Anna (Buckley) is skeptical of the positive result she’s received with her longtime partner so she starts working in a love institute as an assistant to Trevor (Ahmed) who is a mysterious, dedicated instructor.
The intriguing plot sounds like prime territory for a director of the Greek new wave. The story’s playfulness yet serious undertones has resonance with early Yorgos Lanthimos, with whom Nikou cut his teeth as an assistant director on Dogtooth (he was also AD on Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight).
This is also winning casting. Olivier winner and Oscar nominee Buckley is known for her roles in Wild Rose, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and The Lost Daughter. Up next, she will star in Alex Garland and A24’s Cannes-bound Men; in Plan B and MGM’s Women Talking alongside Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy; and in Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s directorial debut Hot Milk.
Ahmed won the 2022 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for The Long Goodbye. For his performance in Amazon’s Sound of Metal, he was a nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, BAFTA, and SAG Award and won the Gotham Award and Indie Spirit Award. He previously won an Emmy for HBO’s The Night Of.
Said FilmNation’s President of Production Ashley Fox: “We’ve been dying to work with Christos Nikou since seeing his wildly original debut, and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of his new film. Fingernails has a romance and warmth that drew us in from the script’s first page. It’s an absolute dream team that’s come together around the film and we’re thrilled to be part of it.”
Commented Dirty Films’ Blanchett, Coco Francini, and Andrew Upton in a joint statement: “The unique and phenomenal talents of Jessie and Riz will perfectly capture the strange humor, heart and pathos embedded in the core of Fingernails. We are thrilled to welcome them and the wonderful team at FilmNation aboard to bring Christos Nikou’s profound vision to life.”
The project joins a bustling Cannes slate for FilmNation, with projects also including noir thriller Knox Goes Away, which Michael Keaton will star in and direct, and Woody Harrelson thriller Last Breath.