Branagh in talks to star in feature

U.K. production shingle Random Harvest has acquired the rights to produce a feature-length version of the 16-minute short “Schneider’s 2nd Stage,” starring Kenneth Branagh.

Writer-director Phil Stoole will make his directorial debut on the feature version.

Branagh is in discussion to reprise his starring role in the feature subject to pic being financed and his own availability. He has next committed to star in a West End stage version of David Mamet’s play “Edmond,” from June through early October, and he is also heading to Broadway to direct “The Play What I Wrote,” after a successful West End run.

“Stage” is a psychological thriller about an idyllic community torn apart by the disappearance of a young girl. Short screened at the San Sebastian Semana de Cine Fantastico y de Terror and Scotland’s horror fest Dawn of the Dead, among other fests.

“Phil has a great vision for the movie. He takes the concept he explored in his short film to new heights and will surprise and shock those people who were thrilled by the first work,” said Alistair MacLean-Clark, joint managing director of Random Harvest with Tim Smith.

Branagh, repped by manager Judy Hofflund, most recently starred in Phillip Noyce’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence” and Chris Columbus’ “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Separately, Random Harvest has hired Kim Ballard as director of production finance for the company. Ballard will be responsible for raising production finance in support of the monies already in place from Random Harvest’s own Section 48 and EIS funds. Ballard will also take charge of the company’s ongoing tax fund strategy, which will likely see two new initiatives launched this year. Previously, Ballard was finance director at FilmFour Ltd. and before that spent seven years at British Screen Finance as finance director.

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