'Hamlet 2' Is Big Buy at Sundance Fest

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PARK CITY, Utah — Steve Coogan is the toast of Sundance. The British actor stars in the biggest acquisition of the film festival, "Hamlet 2," a bawdy comedy directed by Andy Fleming that takes politically incorrect jabs at inspirational teacher flicks like "Mr. Holland's Opus."

Focus Features bought the film for a reported $10 million in the wee hours of Tuesday after a premiere the night before at which it was greeted with loud laughter.

Catherine Keener co-stars as Coogan's unhappy wife, and Elisabeth Shue plays herself, under the concept that she has given up on Hollywood and moved to Tucson, Ariz., to become a nurse.

"Choke," starring Sam Rockwell, sold to Fox Searchlight with trade papers putting the deal at $5 million. Actor-director-writer Clark Gregg adapted the screenplay from "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk's 2001 novel.

In announcing the buy, the studio described the dark comedy's themes as "mothers and sons, sexual compulsion, and the sordid underbelly of Colonial theme parks."

"Henry Poole is Here," a spiritual comedic drama starring Luke Wilson, sold for a reported $3.5 million to Overture Films. "We think we managed to find a little gem," Overture CEO Chris McGurk said Wednesday.

Before the festival, filmmakers and sellers had hoped the halt in production due to the writers strike would put pressure on buyers. It turned out that distributors were actually more reticent than usual.

"There did seem to be more caution this year, I guess, as opposed to prior years," McGurk said. "There were some instances of buys that were made last year that with 20/20 hindsight, that amount of money shouldn't be paid."

Among documentaries, HBO Documentary Films purchased "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" for U.S. distribution, while the Weinstein Co. got international rights. "The Black List" sold to HBO, and "American Teen," a cinema verite crowd favorite tracking four high school seniors, went to Paramount Vantage for about $1 million.

The Sundance Film Festival runs through Sunday.