The excitement of having his first feature film—The Way, Way Back—premiere at the Sundance Film Festival was heightened for Kevin J. Walsh ’97 when it was purchased by Fox Searchlight Pictures after an all-night bidding war erupted following the initial fest screening during the Jan. 17-27 festival. Deadline.com reports that the company is paying just under $10 million, reported to be a near-record high for the Park City, Utah, event.
Walsh, along with Tom Rice of Sycamore Pictures, produced the film, which was written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. The pair won the Academy Award for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for The Descendants. The on-screen reunion of stars Steve Carrell and Toni Collette is eliciting predictions that the movie will be the next Little Miss Sunshine, which was also distributed by Fox Searchlight.
“We are all elated that a vibrant company like Fox Searchlight shares our enthusiasm for the film and faith in Jim and Nat as writers, directors, and storytellers,” Walsh and Rice said in a Jan. 22 movieweb.com story by Brian Gallagher.
Walsh, who graduated with majors in economics and Spanish, got his first job in the entertainment industry as assistant to music producer Tommy Mottola. That led to a position as assistant to the formidable Hollywood producer Scott Rudin on The Adventures of Tintin, The Hours, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Walsh also performed small acting roles in two acclaimed films: Lincoln and The Master.
The Boston native also tried his hand at writing, including a graphic novel, The Leaves. His career instincts, however, eventually led him into the production end of films.
“I felt like I was putting a square peg in a round hole trying to be a writer,” Walsh told Variety in a Nov. 8, 2011 article, which named him among 10 Producers to Watch 2011. “I’ve discovered in the past three years that I’m a natural producer. The two intersect because I love to sit down with writers and figure out a story.”
The Way, Way Back is the story of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) awkward, funny, and sometimes painful summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin).
If Sundance audiences are a harbinger, the film is destined to hit big. According to ew.com, the first showing received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Park City’s Eccles Theater. The film is scheduled to be released in May.