CANNES, France (AP) — A year ago, writer-director Rick Famuyiwa was struggling to find financing for his film after studios in Hollywood passed on it. Now, he’s sitting in a restaurant at Cannes riding the sensation of “Dope,” his comic Los Angeles coming-of-age tale that sparked a bidding war this year at the Sundance Film Festival.
“It’s pretty freaking awesome,” Famuyiwa says, tipping back his white fedora. “Here we are less than a year later. It’s been crazy from Sundance to here. I haven’t quite gotten any perspective on it yet, but I’m enjoying the moment.”
“Dope” premiered Friday in the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight section with most of its young cast enthusiastically in tow. It’s a large group, including star newcomer Shameik Moore, Zoe Kravitz, ASAP Rocky, Tony Revolori and others. While many indies that make it to Cannes arrive with a small retinue, “Dope” is here in full force — and some cast members even paid their own way to come.
“Dope” is a buoyant, stereotype-busting high-school movie about a geek (Moore) in Inglewood, California, who’s aiming to get into Harvard but is thrust into a rollicking adventure when drug dealers looking for a hiding place stuff his backpack full of Ecstasy.
The close bond between the cast comes partly out of the unlikeliness of their journey. “Dope” was made last summer in a rapid 24-day shoot around Los Angeles.
“We were making something we all believe in,” says Famuyiwa.
But at first, it was difficult to find backers who also believed in it.
“When people first read the script, they were like: ‘This is crazy. What’s going on here?'” says Famuyiwa. “It was tough to get people to see it. I felt like once it got made, people would get it.”
When “Dope,” the fourth film by the 41-year-old Famuyiwa (“The Wood,” ”Our Family Wedding”), premiered at Sundance in January, it was the hit of the festival. It was snapped up by Open Road Films for a reported $7 million and many of those who turned it down before filming were now beating down Famuyiwa’s door.
“Most of the same people who were there at Sundance were people who had seen the script before and they didn’t get it,” says Famuyiwa.
“Dope” has some heavyweight support: Pharrell Williams and Forest Whitaker are producers and Williams penned four songs for the movie. Open Road isn’t giving it the small, platform release most films out of Sundance aspire to, but a wide opening on June 19 in the heart of the summer movie season opposite Pixar’s “Inside Out.”
“Dope” may be small in comparison to its opening weekend competition but it has something other films don’t, says Famuyiwa.
“There’s a generation that doesn’t care if Tom Cruise is at the top of the movie,” he says. “They want authenticity. They want an experience. They’re not interested in you feeding that to them. They want it to feel like something that’s truthful to them.”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
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