‘Wilde’ team turns to life of Churchill

Pic will focus on 1939-40 period

The creative team behind “Wilde” is reuniting to develop a major movie about Winston Churchill, provisionally titled “London 1940.”

It will focus tightly on 1939 through 1941 when Churchill emerged from the political wilderness to lead Britain in the darkest hour of its fight against Hitler.

Julian Mitchell is writing the screenplay for Brian Gilbert to direct. The project will be produced by Marc and Peter Samuelson, with development being co-financed by British Screen.

The Samuelsons have secured an exclusive deal with the Churchill family for access to all his papers, letters and speeches from the period of the film. Churchill’s daughter Lady Soames and his grandson Winston Churchill will act as consultants on the pic, along with eminent military historian Michael Howard.

Mitchell, who previously scripted a 1970s TV series “Jenny” about Churchill’s mother, is currently deep in research, with a script scheduled for delivery in the fall. The idea is to shoot the film in the summer of 1999.

The pic will concentrate intimately on Churchill’s life, from the outbreak of war, through the Battle of Britain when the country was teetering on the brink of invasion, to the entry of the United States into the conflict. But it will also interweave threads from the experiences of ordinary Londoners throughout that time.

“It’s a truly British story of vast international importance,” says Peter Samuelson. “And there’s a particular American angle, in Churchill’s gradual seduction of (Franklin) Roosevelt and America from isolationism.”

“It’s the period of his life that has become known as his and the nation’s finest hour,” adds Marc Samuelson.

Nick Marston of Curtis Brown negotiated the deal on behalf of Churchill’s family giving access to the archive.

Among the letters is one that Churchill wrote as a very old man to a member of his family, containing these prescient instructions: “At some point someone will want to make the film of my life. Your lawyer will explain this to you, but make sure you get gross, not net.” The Samuelsons refused to comment on the terms of the deal.

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