Dench, Law, Caine members of formidable bunch
LONDON — BAFTA has always liked to honor its own. But the time is long gone when that meant scouring the nether regions of supporting cast and second unit lists for suitable Brit talent to bestow awards upon.These days, BAFTA voters are spoilt for choice. British actors, directors, writers and artisans routinely find themselves front and center in a wide range of international movies, from Hollywood blockbusters to lavish Euro pics and even U.S. indie fare. Blighty might not yet have spawned anyone to rival Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson or Harrison Ford — or their sole female counterpart, Julia Roberts — in the $25 million pay bracket. But when it comes to an awards race, there are few American stars who would be confident in a one-on-one with Judi Dench, Michael Caine or Jude Law. No one steals a scene, or indeed a whole movie, better than a Brit. All those years of living off the crumbs from Hollywood’s table has made them adept at making the most of a few lines. Dench won an Oscar for just 10 minutes of screen time in “Shakespeare In Love.” Samantha Morton didn’t have any lines at all in “Sweet and Lowdown,” but she still grabbed an Oscar nomination and BAFTA’s supporting actress award. Bravura cameos are all very well, but increasingly British actors are rising toward the top of the bill. And unlike previous generations, they don’t even have to move to Los Angeles. British directors too, such as Stephen Frears, John Madden and Iain Softley, are moving with growing ease from small Brit pics to big Hollywood movies and back again, while a select handful of U.K.-based writers are constantly called upon by the studios. The rise of major Euro financiers, combined with the massive importance of international markets to Hollywood, has created a spiral of demand for British talent. Take a look at a few of the big international movies in the works:
- Law (next in Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park” with Emily Watson and Kristen Scott Thomas), Rachel Weisz and Joe Fiennes (see also Chen Kaige’s “Killing Me Softly” and Milcho Manchevski’s “Dust”) topline Mandalay’s “Enemy at the Gates.”
- Hossein Amini wrote, co-wrote or did a polish on pics such as Miramax/Paramount’s remake “Four Feathers” (shot with a largely British crew), the upcoming Phoenix pic “Shanghai” (which Mike Newell may direct after Working Title’s “The Poetess”) and Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.”
- The “Gangs of New York” cast includes Brits Daniel Day-Lewis and Gary Lewis, the dad in “Billy Elliot,” whose director Stephen Daldry now is shooting “The Hours” for Scott Rudin and Paramount, starring Glenn Close, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore.
- New York-based Rudin also is co-producing “Iris,” to be directed by Richard Eyre and star Dench, last seen in Miramax’s “Chocolat,” for which she’s received an Oscar and a BAFTA nod, and next to play Lady Bracknell in Oliver Parker’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” alongside Rupert Everett.