IFC Films has acquired a project that has technically been gestating since the early 1980s, in the form of the Nikola Tesla biopic Tesla. The film stars Ethan Hawke as the brilliant inventor and futurist, and documents the rocky relationship between Tesla and American inventor/industrial magnate Thomas Edison, who is played by Kyle MacLachlan. The film made its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
According to Variety, IFC “will release the film Aug. 7, 2020,” although it’s not really clear if they intend a theatrical or VOD release, given the current cultural climate and the uncertain status of the theater industry. We do know the following: Tesla is directed by Michael Almereyda, who first wrote the script way back in 1983, and has been pushing to make it ever since. Almereyda memorably directed Hawke in the avant garde, contemporary version of Hamlet from 2000. It also marks another collaboration between Hawke and IFC, who also worked together on Boyhood and Blaze.
“This has been a long journey,” said producer Uri Singer in a statement. “Happy to collaborate with IFC, who have worked with Ethan Hawke successfully in the past. This script was written 37 years ago and thanks to Millennium and everyone involved, we are proud to have audiences see it this summer.”
“We could not have found a better home for this film and are really excited to be teaming up once again with IFC to share this unconventional story of the legend that is Nikola Tesla, portrayed by the multi-talented Ethan Hawke who brings Almereyda’s vision to life alongside a stunning ensemble cast,” said Jeffrey Greenstein of producer Millennium Media.
In re-examining the Tesla/Edison divide, Tesla will tread over ground that was also depicted in 2017’s long-delayed The Current War, which finally saw its release (to disappointing box office results) in 2019. That film included Nicholas Hoult as Tesla and Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, but was ultimately more about the competition between Edison and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon). Tesla would seemingly be focusing more intensely on a smaller slice of the inventor’s history, during his direct period of working with Edison.
The cast of Tesla also includes Jim Gaffigan, Donnie Keshawarz, Eve Hewson, Rebecca Dayan, Lucy Walters and Josh Hamilton. Expect a first trailer before too long.