When production on be mortal Started on March 28 in Los Angeles, the project seemed promising. Based on the award-winning non-fiction book of the same name by renowned surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande, on end-of-life care, it was written by Emmy winner Aziz Ansari, who would also make his directorial debut. And joining Ansari in the star-studded cast were Bill Murray, Seth Rogen and It girl Keke Palmer.
But a few weeks later, on April 20, things went off the rails when Searchlight Pictures informed the team via email that an “inappropriate behavior” complaint had been filed against Murray, and that they were shutting down production immediately and indefinitely.
Details of the behavior in question never emerged, and Murray made a feeble attempt to quell the controversy in an April 30 interview with CNBC, saying, “I had a difference of opinion with a woman I work with. I did something that I thought was funny, and it wasn’t taken that way. Still, production on the film has not resumed. The damage, it seems, was done.
So buyers may have been surprised at the just-concluded Cannes Film Festival to be approached by shopping agents be mortal, allegedly in the name of Ansari. Several buyers tell rolling stone that WME, which represents the writer-actor-director-producer (who weathered his own minor scandal when he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2018), reached out to them about picking up the film from Searchlight.
“Agents are fumbling if anyone would take it,” says one buyer. “But it’s a tough sell.” Another buyer says he’s definitely interested in taking a closer look, but talks are preliminary.
When asked if Searchlight was indeed offloading the project, a company spokesperson said rolling stone, “There is no new update, but we will let you know when we have more information.” WME declined to comment.
Ansari surely finds himself in a delicate situation with be mortal. The film is halfway through production and it would be nearly impossible to replace Murray at this point. By the end of the festival, no new buyers had emerged.
Instead, distributors continued to choose other hot projects. Emily Blunt’s conspiracy thriller Adventurers of Painabout a woman who helps bring a failing pharmaceutical start-up to life, was scooped up by Netflix for $50 million, while Apple won the sci-fi love story Nailswhich stars recent Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley and recent Oscar winner Riz Ahmed.