• The BBC has announced a raft of new drama commissions for the new year, including a mini-series based on EM Forster's Howards End and a remake of Wilkie Collins mystery The Woman in White.
    The well-loved Howards End, about social mores in turn-of-the-century England, was made into a Merchant Ivory film starring Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins in the early 1990s and adapted for the BBC once before in 1970. This new four-part mini series will be penned by Gangs of New York screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan.

    "I'm very proud to have been entrusted with this adaptation of Howards End for the BBC," said Lonergan. "The book belongs to millions of readers past and present; I only have the nerve to take it on at all because of the bottomless wealth and availability of its ideas, the richness of its characters and the imperishable strain of humanity running through every scene."

    Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, often referred to as one of the first ever mystery novels, has already graced the BBC twice in 1966 and 1997 and will also become a new four-part mini series for the broadcaster. Origin Pictures will take on the gothic novel with BBC Northern Ireland.
    "We are so excited to be bringing a bold new version of Wilkie Collins’ beloved Gothic classic to the screen," said executive producers David Thompson and Ed Rubin. "His gift for gripping, atmospheric storytelling is as thrilling for contemporary readers as it was for Victorians, and [this] unique take really brings out the intense psychological drama that has captivated so many over the years,"

    Other new drama commissions include Press, a six-parter set in the world of newspaper journalism and written by Doctor Foster's Mike Bartlett, who called it "a behind-the-scenes story about a group of diverse and troubled people who shape the stories and headlines we read every day."

    BBC1 also welcomes another drama from Banished's Jimmy McGovern, entitled Broken. "We are both proud and privileged to be producing this new six-part primetime drama series for the BBC written by Jimmy McGovern from our home city of Liverpool," said McGovern and Colin McKeown from LA Productions. "The BBC is also the rightful home for this State of the Nation Piece. It plots the perspective of a local catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan and that of his congregation and their struggle with both Catholicism and contemporary Britain."

    Controller of BBC Drama Polly Hill additionally announced The Replacement, a three-part "chilling mini-series [which] examines the darker side of working women, motherhood and the issues that arise from making 'the right choice,'" and six-part Requiem, written and created by The Slap's Kris Mrksa.

    "Requiem is part psychological thriller – the story of a young woman, who, in the wake of her mother's death, sets out to learn the truth about herself, even to the point of unravelling her own identity. But it is also a subtle tale of the supernatural that avoids giving easy answers, playing instead on uncertainty, mystery and ambiguity," revealed a BBC spokesperson.

    Over on BBC2, Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman, The Shadow Line) returns with Black Earth Rising, a "long form thriller which, through the prism of a black Anglo-American family, examines the West’s relationship with contemporary Africa by exploring issues of justice, guilt, and self-determination," while theatre director Conor McPherson is set to deliver his first original television series. Paula (working title) is a "twist on a crime and relationship drama, where a man and a woman get locked into a battle driven by vengeance."

    "I'm proud to announce this range of over 35 hours of new drama and to continue the BBC's commitment to backing original, ambitious drama," said Polly Hill of the new commissions. "Over the next year, I will continue to reinvent and broaden the range of drama on the BBC and it is because we make great drama for everyone that we can offer audiences and the creative community something unique and distinct."

    Radio Times

    Ellie Walker-Arnott, 29/12/15
  • As the summer movie season -- heavy on the popcorn, with a generous sprinkling of superheroes -- is now firmly into the fall festival season, a handful of strong indie performers have emerged as big-time box office contenders. After nearly twenty-one weeks in release, the Helen Mirren-starring "Woman in Gold" ended its showing run earlier this month, though it continues to be the year's biggest indie success.
    It's trailed by the well-reviewed "Ex Machina," which used solid word of mouth and a large expansion (eventually topping out at 2,004 theaters) to grab the second place spot, along with the fast-moving "Mr. Holmes" and the well-regarded documentary "Amy."

    Other festival favorites and Oscar holdovers have stayed strong over the course of the year, however, including "Still Alice," "It Follows," "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" and "Love & Mercy," though newer releases like "Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F" and foreign picks like "Baahubali: The Beginning" continue to hold respectable numbers. Newer offerings like "Grandma" and festival favorite "Sicario" continue to change the landscape, however, and the end of 2015 is poised to look very different than it did even just weeks ago.

    For full list, see Indiewire

    Kate Erbland, 22/09/15

  • CBS Films has gotten out front of the Toronto Film Festival dealmaking expected later this week by acquiring U.S. distribution rights from FilmNation to The Sense Of An Ending, a drama that has just begun production. Directed by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox), the film stars Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Dockery, Billy Howle, Freya Mavor and Joe Alwyn, the latter of whom should have his breakout moment in Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. BBC Films and Origin Pictures developed it from a screenplay by playwright Nick Payne based on Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize-winning bestseller. David Thompson and Ed Rubin are producing.
    Broadbent plays Tony Webster, whose reclusive, quiet existence is ended by long-buried secrets from his past that force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago. CBS Films president Terry Press called the film “a perfect storm of creative talent…and the beautiful talents of director Ritesh Batra whom we have been hoping to work with since audiences fell in love with The Lunchbox.”

    FilmNation Entertainment, BBC Films and LipSync are financing and Christine Langan, Ed Wethered, Ben Browning, Glen Basner and Norman Merry are exec producers. CBS Films’ Scott Shooman and Jack Bleck negotiated the deal with Avy Eschenasy and WME Global repping FilmNation.

    Mike Fleming Jr., 08/09/15
  • Jim Broadbent will star in the drama The Sense of an Ending, which marks director Ritesh Batra's follow-up to the critically acclaimed romantic drama The Lunchbox. FilmNation has acquired worldwide rights, excluding U.K. TV, to the project and will co-finance the film with BBC Films. Origin Pictures’ David Thompson (Woman in Gold, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Ed Rubin are producing. FilmNation will introduce The Sense of an Ending to buyers at the Cannes film market, which kicks off May 13.
    Based on Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sense of an Ending centers on Tony Webster, who, when presented with a mysterious legacy, finds himself contending with a past he had never thought much about. As he delves back into his personal history, he is forced to reassess his relationships with those closest to him and revise his understanding of his own nature. Playwright Nick Payne (Constellations) adapted the screenplay, marking his first feature film.

    "It's been a thrill to watch Nick's first screenplay take shape and to match his brilliantly engaging adaptation of Julian's intriguing novel with such an exciting filmmaker as Ritesh," BBC Films’ Christine Langan said. "We’re over the moon to have the wonderful Jim Broadbent take center stage in this exciting contemporary story and to partner again with Glen [Basner] at FilmNation and our friends David and Ed at Origin."

    Added FilmNation CEO Glen Basner: “The Lunchbox charmed and delighted worldwide audiences, and we expect the same reaction to this wonderful script, especially with the supremely talented and charismatic Mr. Broadbent in the lead."

    FilmNation enters Cannes with a stacked lineup of projects, including Nocturnal Animals, Silencio and HHHH. The company is in post-production on Genius, starring Colin Firth, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, which is generating major interest from U.S. distributors, and John Carney's Sing Street. FilmNation also is in pre-production on the Denis Villeneuve-helmed Amy Adams-starrer Story of Your Life and John Lee Hancock’s The Founder with Michael Keaton. Upcoming releases include Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes and Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups.

    BBC Films develops and co-produces a dozen films a year, including Thomas Vinterberg’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos and Simon Curtis’ Woman in Gold.

    Broadbent, who won a supporting actor Oscar for Iris, co-starred in hot Sundance title Brooklyn, which will be released by Fox Searchlight in the U.S. Other recent credits include Paddington, Cloud Atlas and The Iron Lady. He is repped by CAA and Independent Talent Group in the U.K.

    Batra made his feature directing debut with the Mumbai-set The Lunchbox, which was released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics. The film won the Rail d’Or at Cannes' Critics' Week in 2013. He is repped by WME, Casarotto Ramsay in the U.K. and attorney Andre Des Rochers.

    Tatiana Siegel & Pamela McClintock, 11/05/15
  • PBS’s Masterpiece producing public broadcasting channel WGBH announced this morning it had “optioned” the novel The Signature Of All Things, written by Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert and “inspired by the true-life adventures of real 19th century female botanical explorers.” UK film and TV production company Origin Pictures, helmed by David Thompson, is developing the project; Origin’s recent titles include Death Comes To Pemberley starring Matthew Rhys, and Woman In Gold starring Helen Mirren.
    In its announcement, the PBS station describes central character Alma Whittaker as a “brilliant, determined, and thoroughly scientific woman, struggling to express her intellectual curiosity in a society where women’s lives are confined to the domestic sphere,” who is “equal parts Elizabeth Bennet and Charles Darwin.”

    “Readers all over the world fell in love with this unique character — the rare heroine of literature whose fortunes are neither rescued nor ruined by a man,” WGBH added.

    Gilbert is maybe best known for her memoir Eat Pray Love, which chronicled her divorce and search for spiritual enlightenment, portrayed by Julia Roberts in Columbia Pictures’ movie adaptation. Gilbert is the author of six books. The Signature Of All Things is her second novel.

    Emily Ballou, Australian-American screenwriter, novelist and poet, will adapt the novel for television. Her writing credits include The Slap, Scott & Bailey and Case Histories.

    “Whenever I dreamed of seeing my novel transformed for the screen, I dreamt of working with exactly this team of people, and I’m delighted that my dream has come true,” Gilbert said in today’s announcement.

    Lisa de Moraes, 21/04/2015
  • The Weinstein Company will expand “Woman in Gold” to 1,200 theaters nationwide, emboldened by its reception among older audience members.
    The drama about a legal battle to recover art confiscated by the Nazis stars Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Tatiana Maslany and made $2.1 million in its debut weekend. It premiered in 258 theaters, and the studio, which had initially expected to add 250 locations this weekend and roll out the film more gradually, is now accelerating its distribution plan.

    “It’s time to pull the trigger,” said Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Company’s distribution chief. “It was on a slower course, but we think it will get some love in the marketplace.”

    “Woman in Gold” is based on the true story of a Jewish refugee and a young lawyer who battle the Austrian government to retrieve a Gustav Klimt painting that was taken from her family during World War II. The picture received an A CinemaScore, with females and ticket buyers over 50 giving it an A plus. Exit polls were also strong, with 86% of the audience reporting they would definitely recommend the film.

    “That’s ridiculously high,” said Lomis. “It’s as good as anything we’ve had here, and that includes ‘The Artist,’ ‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘The Imitation Game.'”

    Reviewers were not as kind, handing the picture a mediocre 49% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” winding down its run, the studio sees an opportunity to become the de facto choice for seniors.

    “If you’re over 50 and you’re looking for something to see, we’re your team,” said Lomis.

    Brent Lang, 6th April 2015
  • Friday, 3 October 2014
    EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Matthews’ X+Y among Toronto haul

    Koch Media has secured UK rights to a well-received trio out of the Toronto Film Festival and market, comprising X+Y, Goodnight Mommy and The Dark Horse.
    Morgan Matthews’ drama X+Y, about a socially awkward but highly intelligent teenager who finds new confidence when he is selected for the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad, was acquired up from Bankside.

    Asa Butterfield stars alongside Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan and Sally Hawkins in the touted drama which gets its European premiere at the London Film Festival.

    Andreas Wiseman, 25th September 2014
  • Friday, 3 October 2014
    A fiction loosely based on fact that adds up to a satisfying, compelling drama.
    Shrewdly calculated to warm hearts with formulaic yet affecting elements of emotional uplift, “X+Y” zeroes in on a young math whiz who only gradually comprehends the basics of establishing relationships with other people. Deconstructionist critics and mainstream moviegoers alike may find it difficult not to reference “Rain Man,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “David and Lisa” while describing the movie to potential ticketbuyers. But even though such comparisons are hardly inapt, director Morgan Matthews’ debut fiction feature — inspired by his acclaimed 2007 documentary “Beautiful Young Minds” — proves potent on its own terms as a satisfying, compelling drama with definite crossover potential on screens of all sizes.

    Much like its nonfiction predecessor, “X+Y” focuses on student competitors in the Intl. Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). In concert with scripter James Graham, Matthews has spun off a scenario about a character not unlike one of the more memorable subjects in “Beautiful Young Minds,” a neurodevelopmentally challenged math prodigy named Daniel Lightwing.

    In the world according to “X+Y,” the prodigy is Nathan Ellis, a Yorkshire youngster who, during the film’s early scenes, is diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, and credibly portrayed by Edward Baker-Close as a skittish introvert who fixates on the fascinating “patterns” of mathematics. Young Nathan manages to forge an affectionate bond with his simpatico father (Martin McCann). But after Dad dies in an auto mishap, the boy is unable, or unwilling, to share a similarly warm connection with Julie (Sally Hawkins), his indefatigably attentive and endlessly patient mom.

    Nathan is scarcely more emotionally open with Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), a sardonic yet sensitive teacher who once excelled as a math prodigy, and even competed in the IMO, before a toxic mix of self-loathing and multiple sclerosis undermined his ambitions. But Martin is quick to recognize and eager to nurture Nathan’s nascent skills. By the time Nathan is old enough for Baker-Close to pass the character over to top-billed Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”), Martin is ready for a return to the IMO — this time, as the tutor for a most promising up-and-comer.

    Humphreys and Hawkins give such fine, full-bodied performances in their richly detailed roles, and develop such pleasing chemistry as Martin and Julie warily warm to each other, that “X+Y” veers perilously close to losing its balance during its middle section. Indeed, there are times when some viewers will feel disappointed, or frustrated, when the narrative shifts away from the Martin/Julie subplot — and from Martin’s understandable anxiety about the inevitable failing of his health — so the film can continue charting Nathan’s progress.

    Fortunately, Matthews and Graham have made Nathan’s own narrative sufficiently engrossing to sustain empathy and generate a rooting interest as the protagonist journeys to Taipei for an IMO preliminary, interacts with other young prodigies — including Luke (an outstanding Jake Davies), a socially maladroit autistic who’s a closet Monty Python fan — and ultimately arrives at Cambridge for the IMO version of the main event.

    Butterfield is admirably unafraid to duly emphasize Nathan’s less endearing qualities — his arrogant self-absorption, his refusal to even hold his mum’s hand when she longs to express maternal love — while at the same time subtly expressing first the aching loneliness of his character’s obsession, and later the first signs of Nathan’s emergence from his emotional isolation. The latter development is expedited by Nathan’s sweetly chaste budding relationship with Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), a member of the Chinese IMO team.

    At several points throughout “X+Y,” but especially during the locally colorful Taipei street scenes shot by ace lenser Danny Cohen, Matthews’ background as a documentarian is obvious and beneficial. But Matthews also demonstrates expertise as a director of actors, getting creditable performances across the board, including a slyly funny supporting turn by Eddie Marsan as squad leader for Team UK at the IMO. There are a few heavy-handed touches to the storytelling — most notably, an almost comically portentous closeup of a traffic light to presage the death of Nathan’s dad — but nothing unforgivable.

    By the way, mathephobes shouldn’t fret: Matthews and Graham avoid delving too deeply into the specifics of mathematics, offering only snippets of questions and calculations to keep the plot moving. Still, “X+Y” does communicate an unabashed awe for the prowess demonstrated by Nathan and his fellow IMO competitors, which should delight those viewers who actually know what the characters are talking about.

    Joy Leydon, September 10th 2014
  • What We Did on Our Holiday review – ambitious and likable family fun
    David Tennant and Rosamund Pike play the put-upon parents of three kids in this feature-format development of Outnumbered.
    It’s impossible not to enjoy this big-hearted and sweet-natured British family movie from Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin – effectively a feature-format development of their smash-hit BBC TV comedy, Outnumbered, which pioneered semi-improvised dialogue from the children. It creates a terrifically ambitious (and unexpected) narrative with a tonne of sharp gags. I would have liked to see Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner reprise their roles as the mum and dad, but because we have all seen their fictional children grow up on the small screen that is not really feasible. David Tennant and Rosamund Pike are Doug and Abi, the troubled parents of three boisterous kids: they’re heading up to Scotland for the 75th birthday of Doug’s unwell dad, Gordy (Billy Connolly), which means staying with Doug’s uptight brother, Gavin (Ben Miller), and his depressed wife, Margaret (an excellent Amelia Bullmore). This means maintaining all the secrets and lies of families, and Gordy finds the only people he really gets on with are Doug’s young children. He respects their natural honesty and confides to them his hopes and fears. Jenkin and Hamilton have created a smart script, with laughs and subtleties: could there be a connection in Gordy’s mind between the own goal in football and the wartime friendly fire that caused a family tragedy? Very impressive and likable stuff.

    Peter Bradshaw, 25th September 2014
  • Origin Pictures is teaming with theatre company Paines Plough on a scheme to develop playwrights’ screen-writing skills.

    Origin, producers of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and TV series Jamaica Inn , is launching the scheme with backing from its BFI Vision Award and in collaboration with BBC Films.

    The partnership will support four playwrights in their writing across film and theatre over six months through workshops, mentoring and editorial support.

    The selected writers are Alia Bano, Stacey Gregg, Ali Taylor and Alexandra Wood.

    Bano won the Charles Wintour Award in 2009 for Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Awards for her play Shades, which ran at the Royal Court that year. Her play Gap was commissioned by the Royal National Theatre for their Connections 2011 season.

    Wood, whose plays include The Eleventh Capital (Royal Court), The Lion’s Mouth (Rough Cuts/Royal Court), Unbroken (Gate Theatre), Decade (co-writer/Headlong) and an adaptation of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans (Young Vic/American Repertory Theater), won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2007.

    Taylor is currently working on a television adaptation of his comedy play Fault Lines (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs) as well as a new play created during an attachment at the Royal Court Theatre.

    Gregg’s plays includeOverride (Watford Palace Theatre) and Perve (Abbey Theatre Dublin). She is currently working on commissions for the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Clean Break, and BBC NI.

    James Grieve and George Perrin, artistic directors, Paines Plough, said: “We are thrilled to be working in partnership with Origin Pictures, BBC Films and the BFI Vision Award to support four of the UK’s most exciting writers over the next six months. We are privileged to be working with the stars of the future.”

    Paines Plough, founded in 1974 by writer David Pownall and director John Adams, specialises in commissioning and producing new plays.

    The company has worked with writers including Tony Marchant, Abi Morgan, Enda Walsh, Dennis Kelly and Jack Thorne.

    Origin is developing first films with playwrights Nick Payne and Polly Stenham while feature X+Y, the first film from James Graham, whose new play The Angry Brigade premieres in a Paines Plough production in September, is currently in post-production and funded by the BFI and BBC Films.

    Origin has also just wrapped shooting on playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first original screenplay, The Woman in Gold, directed by Simon Curtis and starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.