Mouse arm acquires Frears' Princess Diana pic

Continuing to bolster its slate under new topper Daniel Battsek, Disney specialty arm Miramax Films has acquired North American distrib rights to helmer Stephen Frears’ in-production portrait of the British royal family titled “The Queen.”

Lensing in Blighty, pic centers on the royals following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II, James Cromwell as Prince Philip and Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Battsek’s move to buy “Queen” reflects Miramax’s aim of building an eclectic, wide-ranging slate of specialty projects. The division quietly snapped up high school basketball docu “The Heart of the Game” in Toronto, as well as South Africa’s Oscar submission this year, “Tsotsi,” by helmer Gavin Hood.

“We feel that the films that we acquire and make will describe the company we are, rather than any manifesto or agenda,” Battsek said.

He added that the “Queen” release date and pattern haven’t been set but that the pic could wind up as an awards season rollout next year.

Penned by Peter Morgan, “Queen” is being made through the Pathe Pictures and Granada Screen banners. Pathe is repping world rights and distribbing in the U.K. and France. BIM has Italo rights.

Andy Harries, Christine Langan and Tracey Seaward are producing, and Pathe managing director Francois Ivernel is exec producing with deputy managing director Cameron McCracken and Scott Rudin.

Harries said Miramax was the right choice for the film because it could handle a pic with “strong mainstream appeal.”

Frears’ most recently completed pic, “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” is being distribbed by the Weinstein Co.

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