The word on the most-talked-about upcoming Brit films
“The Actors”Michael Caine is at the peak of his powers, and word is that he turns in another cracking performance in this Irish caper thriller. He stars with Dylan Moran as two thesps caught up in an underworld plot. Written and directed by Conor McPherson, from an idea by Neil Jordan, who exec produces. “Calendar Girls” Helen Mirren and Julie Walters get their kit off in this menopausal version of “The Full Monty,” based on the true story of the Yorkshire matrons whose naked calendar became a worldwide media sensation and raised much dinero for charity. Nigel Cole directs, Buena Vista Intl. is financing. “Johnny English” Rowan Atkinson plays an incompetent spy, Working Title produces, script comes from Bond writers Neil Purvis and Rob Wade, and Peter Howitt directs. If Bean-meets-Bond formula works, it could be the start of a new pic franchise. “To Kill a King” Formerly “Cromwell and Fairfax,” this political drama, set against the backdrop of the English civil war, collapsed in midproduction before being rescued by producer Jeremy Thomas. Cast is solid — Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Rupert Everett — but pic is more about intrigue than swashbuckling action. Mike Barker directs. “Love Actually” The directorial debut of top-tier screenwriter Richard Curtis, starring Hugh Grant and two dozen others, including former “EastEnders” star Martine McCutcheon who looks poised for a breakthrough as Grant’s amour. Is love actually all around? You betcha. Boffo B.O. could follow. “M1187511″ Michael Winterbottom is the most consistently talked-about director at work in Britain, but that doesn’t mean anyone ever goes to see his movies. After “24 Hour Party People” fell short of attracting bigger auds, Winterbottom has gone defiantly anti-commercial with this gritty movie, shot on digital video, following two Afghan refugees on their illegal journey through Europe to Britain. “The Mother” Brave and challenging drama follows a grandmother who starts a passionate affair with a man half her age. Accomplished cast (Anne Reid, Daniel Craig), director (Roger Michell) and writer (Hanif Kureishi) should cause a stir at fests, and if everything clicks, it will win awards. “Nicholas Nickleby” Dickens is not quite in the Jane Austen league when it comes to box office appeal but director Doug McGrath (“Emma”) is hoping to change that. Much rides on the narrow shoulders of Charlie Hunnam as the noble young teacher fighting for the oppressed at evil school Dotheboys Hall. Pic is fully financed by United Artists. “Wondrous Oblivion” Endearing script follows a misfit Jewish boy desperate to play cricket who gets lessons from the Jamaican family next door, all set against the background of 1960s racial tensions. Writer-director Paul Morrison got a foreign-lingo Oscar nomination for his debut, the Welsh “Solomon & Gaenor.” If any British movie has “Billy Elliot”/”Bend It Like Beckham” breakout potential next year, it’s this one.