How Searchlight has sold a story of discovering yourself
Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, stars Emma Thompon as Nancy Stokes, a recently widowed woman who is seeking to explore life after what turned out to be a lifeless, boring marriage. To that end, she acquires the services of a sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to do all the things she heard about but was never able to experience with her husband.
The movie is in theaters this weekend from Searchlight Pictures and has an impressive 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.
announcements and casting
News of Thompson’s involvement with the project came in late 2020, with McCormick cast in the title role in early 2021, just before filming began.
First look stills came out in late May 2021.
It then was among the movies that screened at the 2022 Sundance International Film Festival.
Thompson, McCormack and Hyde were among those interviewed during Sundance about how they got involved with the project or what it was like to sign on such well-respected actors. Hyde also spoke more about handling post-production during the pandemic lockdowns.
Searchlight Pictures picked up the movie following that Sundance premiere. It then screened at Berlin where Thompson was again interviewed about the physical nature of her role and more.
the marketing campaign
Things finally got underway in mid-May with the release of the trailer (2.8m YouTube views). As it begins Nancy is greeting Leo and explaining to him all the things she’d like him to do with/to her in their time together. While there is some sex shown, what is clear is that the story has much more to do with Nancy letting go of a lifetime of inhibitions and negative thoughts with Leo’s help. It’s much more about intimacy and comfort than it is about orgasms.
At the same time the movie’s poster came out showing Nancy and Leo sitting on the floor at the end of a hotel bed, both in a state of mild undress. The slightly befuddled looks on their faces make it look like a slightly more broad comedy than the trailer, but that’s a small quibble. A couple positive quotes from festival reviews are at the top while the film’s release date is at the bottom.
The first clip that came out in early June offers an expanded look at Nancy going down her list of things to take care of with Leo.
TV commercials like this started running around the same time, with messages about how the movie is body- and sex-positive, featuring wonderful performances from both leads.
The cast and crew reassembled for a screening and Q&A at Sundance London a week or so before the movie was set to come out.
McCormick was interviewed about the process of auditioning for and getting the role as well as how he and Thompson worked to become comfortable with each other over the course of production. An interview with Thompson had her talking about getting naked in front of the camera and her experience with being offered “sexy” roles over the years.
Acknowledging that everyone’s mileage will vary, I’m on board for anything Emma Thompson has done since Dead Again, so the campaign doesn’t need to work that hard to get my attention. And that’s not because of the sexual nature of the story, it’s just because Thompson is an acting marvel.
But the campaign is still pretty good, emphasizing its sex-positive nature without feeling like it’s making a big deal about putting a 60+ year old woman in the lead, just letting Thompson own the screen as she is wont to do. And McCormick gets plenty of attention in a performance that’s garnered positive buzz and could take his career to a new level.