Just in time for the NHL lockout, Toronto-based distributor Phase 4 Films has acquired all U.S. and Canadian rights to The Last Gladiators, a documentary by Oscar-winning helmer Alex Gibney that focuses on violence in professional hockey.
The company plans to release the film theatrically in Canada in October with a U.S. theatrical run to come in 2013.
Gladiators, which was produced by Gibney’s New York-based Jigsaw Production in association with Northern Lights Hockey, received its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
The film focuses on the life and influential hockey career of legendary tough guy Chris Nilan, a right-winger who played between 1980 and 1992 for the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers and the 1986 Stanley Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens. His nickname was “Knuckles” for his fondness for dropping the gloves and pummeling opponents.
“I’m delighted that Phase 4 is releasing The Last Gladiators, a story that revolves around the compelling character of Chris Nilan – a film I am enormously proud of,” Gibney said in a statement.
It was written and produced by Larry Weitzman, Jim Podhoretz and Gibney. Exec producers included Barry Reese, Donald “Dee” Rizzo, Michael Messner, George Gund and Robert J. Brooks.
The film made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, with Gibney telling realscreen at the time that the film was about far more than Nilan’s status as a hockey “enforcer.”
“I’m interested in human psychology, and although sports is often about physical accomplishment, it’s really a lot about psychological accomplishment too,” Gibney told realscreen.
The distribution deal was hammered out by Phase 4′s Larry Greenberg and Sam Posner with Josh Braun from Submarine and Anne Atkinson from Pryor Cashman representing the docmakers.
Gibney’s Iraq war doc Taxi to the Dark Side received the best documentary feature Oscar in 2008.
(From Playback Daily, with files from realscreen)