The Deal

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


What does it look like when a Hollywood movie producer suddenly has nothing to lose? Meet Charlie Berns, a guy whose suicidal tendencies give him the chutzpah to con a major studio into a $100 million deal on a script he hasn't even read.

At the very moment when his idealistic screenwriter nephew knocks on the door, toting a solemn art-house period script about Benjamin Disraeli, Charlie has literally had it with life. But the trade papers have announced that a recently converted black action star is actively seeking Jewish material, so the serendipity is too absurd to resist. Charlie masterminds a plan, making it impossible for the studio not to green-light this project, which, while Jewish, couldn’t be further from an action flick. No matter. In Hollywood, perception is everything. Along the way, Charlie meets his match in Deidre Hearn, a sharp-witted development executive who sees right through his games but also recognizes that maybe his caution-to-the-wind philosophy has serious merit.

The mischievous charm in this smart screwball satire about renegade producers bamboozling a soul-crushing industry hinges on the wonderfully crackly Tracy-Hepburn chemistry between William Macy and Meg Ryan. Steven Schachter's tongue-in-cheek romp revels in sending up Hollywood stereotypes—zealous star, histrionic director, slippery suits—but also Ryan’s legacy as romantic comedy’s “it” girl, and even the notion that it’s possible to make a meaningful movie.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]