Weinsteins Pass on 'Machete'; 20th Century Fox to Distribute

It looks like the Weinstein-Rodriguez relationship is ending. When Harvey and Bob Weinstein left Miramax and started their own company, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were two of the filmmakers that followed them. But after Grindhouse was a bust, Rodriguez returned to the family genre with Shorts, which was distributed by Warner Bros., not the Weinstein Company.

When Grindhouse was released included were a number of fake trailers, including one from Rodriguez called Machete.It was a fake trailer, but Rodriguez had hinted that he had shot twenty minutes for a feature-length release. And it had an awesome premise with a little tinge of social commentary as it pertained to illegal immigration. In it, a Mexican day laborer is set up, double-crossed, and left for dead — then starts everyone’s worst nightmare.

When the Machete trailer went viral on YouTube, it went on to get more than 1.3 million views. That sort of number wasn’t lost on the six studios vying to get the domestic distribution rights. Among the studios competing were Sony, Lionsgate, Warner Bros, Fox, Paramount, and The Weinstein Co.

Going outside the studio system (a la Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass), Rodriguez, with help from Rick Schwartz’s Overnight Productions, financed Machete with $20 million from selling international rights to Sony and making some other global sales and another $5 million he borrowed.

Writing and producing, Rodriguez also co-directed it with Ethan Maniquis. The film’s cast list is unique and distinct with Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal and Danny Trejo.

All six interested studios screened about 15 to 30 minutes of footage. Rodriguez’s agent, Robert Newman, proposed upfront costs of $9 million, no P&A commitment but the guarantee of a wide release, and a big backend gross participation for Rodriguez. Fox and Paramount said yes, so Newman countered asking for more gross percentage and an overall production deal for Rodriguez.

Paramount dropped out and so did Fox, but…since the studio was already making Predators and because Rothman really got along with Rodriguez, the deal was done.

Since the Weinsteins had first-look on Machete, why pass it up? Their story is they saw the footage and wasn’t impressed. Yeah, I’m calling shenanigans on that one. The brothers probably lost a nice fortune with Nine that they’re hemorrhaging for cash.

Credit: Deadline

Trailer that appeared in Grindhouse:

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