“Everything We Know about … ” is Paste’s series of deep dives into the forthcoming projects we’re most excited about. Explore them all here.
Acclaimed indie filmmaker Miranda July’s first feature directorial effort in nearly a decade will see theaters in 2020 (coronavirus permitting), and all indications are that the project will be a significant one for the writer-director, actor, author and artist. The star-studded heist film (!) we now know to be titled Kajillionaire premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and was recently slated for a June release via Focus Features, with all indications suggesting it will be July’s most high-profile film yet.
Here’s everything we know about Kajillionaire ahead of its summer premiere.
July made her unforgettable studio feature debut with 2005’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, swiftly establishing herself as a writer-director to watch with the singular romantic dramedy, in which she also starred alongside John Hawkes. The film grossed over $8 million worldwide, winning the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or award for best first feature film and a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize, and Roger Ebert would rank it among the best films of the decade in 2009.
July’s sophomore effort, 2011’s The Future, in which she also starred opposite Hamish Linklater, was met with more muted acclaim. Though the film competed for the Golden Bear award (for best film) at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, The Future performed poorly at the box office, failing to recoup its $1 million production budget.
July has gravitated more towards the written word in recent years: Her award-winning short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You was published in 2007, followed by nonfiction collection It Chooses You in 2011 and her debut novel The First Bad Man in 2015. We ranked the latter among that year’s best works of fiction.
However, 2018 would bring about July’s return to film: She had a starring feature role in Josephine Decker’s acclaimed drama Madeline’s Madeline, and began work on a new film of her own, both of which would be her first since The Future.
July’s third film was first detailed in March of 2018, with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment and Youree Henley (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) onboard to produce.
Precious little was known about the project at the time, save that it would be July’s first film in which she would not also star, and that production was set to begin the following May.
There were no casting or plot details available then, only an odd logline: “The film follows the story of Old Dolio and how her world is turned upside down when her criminal parents invite an outsider to join their biggest heist yet.”
However, between July’s return to feature filmmaking, Ellison and Pitt producing, and that tantalizing “heist” detail, the March 2018 announcement was enough to stir up excitement, even before the film’s cast was revealed.
The principal cast of July’s then-still-untitled heist film was revealed later that month, with Emmy nominee Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld), Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) and Oscar nominee Debra Winger (The Lovers, Terms of Endearment) attached to star.
This filled in the logline’s four core blanks, with Wood as protagonist Old Dolio, Jenkins and Winger as her criminal parents, and Rodriguez as the outsider who joins in on the family’s big caper.
Principal photography began as planned in May, with the film adding a new supporting player in June: Mark Ivanir (Homeland), cast as “the family’s stern landlord Stovik, who can never quite manage to get his hands on the overdue rent,” per Variety.
Little else was heard about July’s project until November 2018, when IndieWire identified the film as having been snubbed by Sundance 2019. However, per THR, the film had “just locked” as of February 2019, and the film’s title, Kajillionaire, wasn’t revealed until later that year. (It’s not entirely clear when, though Wikipedia lists June 2019, when the film was rated by the MPA.)
In December 2019, though, Kajillionaire officially made the Sundance 2020 cut, which brought about a first-look photo and a new-ish synopsis:
Photo by Matt Kennedy, courtesy of Sundance Institute
The ever so slightly more detailed synopsis reads: “Low-stakes grifters, Old Dolio and her parents invite a chipper young woman into their insular clan, only to have their entire world turned upside down.”
After premiering at Sundance in January 2020, Kajillionaire was prized in a bidding war worthy of its title, with Oscar-winning distributor/studio A24 vying with the likes of Bleecker Street, Focus Features and Neon (also a recent Oscar winner for Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite) for the rights to the film. At one point, A24 was reported to have the edge, but it was Focus that would acquire Kajillionaire out of Sundance on Feb. 6, 2020, making “a late-hitting bid” in an amount “in the mid-seven-figure range” to top A24’s initial offer and win the worldwide rights to the project, per Variety. Focus would distribute the movie domestically, with Universal Pictures International handling its overseas rollout.
“In talking to [Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski, vice chairman Jason Cassidy, and president Robert Walak], it was obvious that their vision for Kajillionaire’s release came from a really strong gut response to the movie; I’m so excited to collaborate with them,” said July at the time.
Focus formally announced Kajillionaire’s theatrical release on March 10, setting a Friday, June 19, domestic premiere date, and sharing the following details:
From acclaimed writer/director Miranda July comes a profoundly moving and wildly original comedy. Con-artists Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) have spent 26 years training their only daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to swindle, scam and steal at every opportunity. During a desperate, hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) into joining their next scam, only to have their entire world turned upside down.
July writes and directs, of course, while executive producers Pitt and Ellison, and producer Henley are also joined by producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B Entertainment, and executive producer Jillian Longnecker.
Early critical reactions to the film have been quite positive: Kajillionaire currently boasts a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 advance reviews, and an 80 on Metacritic based on 11. The latter side also lists Adam Bartley, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Diana-Maria Riva, Rachel Redleaf and Steve Park among the film’s cast.
Those of us who weren’t at Sundance still have yet to see a frame of Kajillionaire, save that first-look photo, but with its release three months away, surely it won’t be long before we see a trailer of some sort. We’ll have that for you here at Paste once it’s revealed.
Click back and forth onto this page for further Kajillionaire updates.