According to Variety, maverick British producer Stephen Woolley spent a decade developing his project about the mysterious death of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones before deciding that he was too immersed in the material to let anyone else direct it. Now Woolley and sales company Intandem Films have decided to handle the U.K. release on Stoned themselves after being underwhelmed by interest from other distribs following the pic's screening in the Cannes market.

Intandem, supported by the film's financier Paul White of Audley Films, will distribute the movie in partnership with Rupert Preston at Vertigo Films. Woolley, who spent many years in distribution as co-founder of the iconic '80s outfit Palace Pictures, is centrally involved in planning the campaign.

"It's my passion, and it had to be my passion to take the step to direct it," Woolley says. "There isn't a stone I will leave unturned to get the right theaters, the right kind of coverage. Whoever would be distributing this film would not have enough money to pay me to go away. It's in my nature to see this thing through to the bitter end.

"It's a natural progression for me in the same way as it was for me to distribute Company Of Wolves, which I produced," he explains. "Without wanting to sound like a megalomaniac, what I'm hoping to do is to breathe life into something that I used to do before at Palace, which is British drama."

"I had to four-wall theaters for Company of Wolves, even for Mona Lisa, " he recalls. "It's much easier for a British genre film or a comedy to succeed than a drama that's historical, and this film will need an awful lot of work. This is a more positive way forward than being saddled with a half-hearted distributor who is afraid of the cynicism of the critics and public about British films."

It's a model that Intandem topper Gary Smith is exploring in other territories such as Germany, where a similar deal is being negotiated with VCL and Warner. Smith says he would even consider such a partnership arrangement in North America.

"If someone comes with a sensible offer for the U.S., of course we'd sell it," Smith says. "We're screening it for people in L.A. at the moment, and we've had offers, some in seven figures. But we think we can make more than that by doing it ourselves, particularly on DVD."

With the U.K. release on around 60 prints scheduled for November, following a world premiere later this month at the Edinburgh fest, Smith is keen to get the movie out Stateside at the same time.

"The Rolling Stones are touring America from September to the end of the year, and there aren't a lot of movies that can benefit from a major rock tour going on at the same time," he says.

Pic has its North American premiere in Toronto.

Stoned stars Leo Gregory as Jones and Paddy Considine as the builder whose intense relationship with the doomed rocker may have led to his death.

Evan Jacobs