The Polka King: Netflix snaps up Sundance Jack Black comedy
James R | On 27, Jun 2017
It’s been many months since Sundance ended, but Netflix is still snapping up titles like it’s January, with a new deal signed this week for The Polka King.
The tragicomedy, which stars Jack Black, is the biopic telling the rise and fall of Polish émigré Jan Lewan, who rose from tchotchke shop owner in the 1970s to become “King of Pennsylvania Polka” in the early 1990s. Black plays Lewan, who went to extraordinary lengths to achieve his goal, including defrauding investors and officials to build a musical empire – in the words of Sundance, it’s “the world’s only known Polka Ponzi scheme’.
The film also stars Jenny Slate as his wife, Marla, who is swept away by his charm, and Jason Schwartzman as his neurotic sidekick, Mickey.
The film is co-written and co-directed by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky. Forbes began her career on HBO’s The Larry Sanders Shows and has since written by numerous TV shows, with her directorial debut, Infinitely Polar Bear, getting her a mention in Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2014. It also played at Sundance, and also saw Forbes and Wolodarsky work together.
The movie, produced by David Permut (Permut Presentations), Stuart Cornfeld (Red Hour Films), Shivani Rawat and Monica Levinson (ShivHans Pictures), Jack Black (Electric Dynamite) and Priyanka Mattoo, is based on the documentary The Man Who Would Be Polka King, by directors John Mikulak and Joshua Von Brown.
The Netflix deal with WME and ICM was inked this week, with Deadline reporting the figure to be in the high seven figures. The streaming service was interested in the film from the off, along with several other suitors keen to acquire the film, but Netflix pulled ahead of its rivals in more recent months. The film will be released on Netflix UK worldwide on Friday 12th January 2018.
The film is the latest in a long stream of acquisitions made by Netflix from this year’s Sundance, including a record-breaking sum paid for Mudbound. Other acquisitions Chasing Coral and The Incredible Jessica James will both premiere in July.