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Meet the Euro-helmers

Spotlight on Wright, Parker, Villaceque, Fulton & Pepe

Joe Wright

Working Title’s new bright young thing, Joe Wright, makes his feature debut at Toronto with “Pride & Prejudice.” It is a movie with a freshness and immediacy rarely seen in period drama. “I like my films to express a very subjective p.o.v.,” says Wright. “That’s what film as a medium is very good at.”

Wright started out directing contemporary television drama but forayed into period settings with the miniseries “Charles II.”

“‘Charles II’ was dark with lots of sex and violence and I enjoyed directing something that was more innocent and feminine. All my films are always a reaction to the one I made before.”

While “Pride & Prejudice” is the only drama Wright has ever directed with a happy ending, his next pic deals with the very notion of happy endings. He is working with Brit scribe Christopher Hampton on an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s “Atonement,” again for Working Title with whom he’s also in talks about another project entitled “Suicide on 6th Street.”

“It’s a contemporary drama set in New York and quite dark. Completely the opposite of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ really.”

Wright’s background in contemporary television drama helped to instill a sense of realism into what could have otherwise turned into just another piece of corset fluff. “What I was trying to do with all the crew was not use people who’d done a period film before. I didn’t want anyone come on set and say ‘In period drama this is how it’s done.'”

He is excited by the fact that he’s one of a new generation of helmers including the likes of David Yates who’ve come out of television drama.

“Hopefully producers are opening up their minds to the fact we can work on a bigger screen. People kept on saying to me during pre-production ‘You do understand the difference between film and television?’ and I’d say ‘Oh yes!’ having no idea what the difference really is. I guess, you get more time and your attention to detail has to be more acute.”

Wright does admit though that he uses more close-ups than a director who doesn’t come from television. “The close-up of a human face is the most beautiful thing to me.”

Ol Parker

With his directing debut “Imagine Me and You,” writer-turned-director Ol Parker (not to be confused with helmer Oliver Parker who also works with producer Barnaby Thompson and, bizarrely, lives on the same street) is Blighty’s latest graduate from the Richard Curtis school of filmmaking.

“I wanted to write a film about love at first sight,” Parker says, “because that’s how I fell in love with my wife (Thandie Newton).”

Parker started writing on spec, thinking up a same-sex twist “in the middle of the night.” Halfway through writing, Parker decided he wanted to helm the pic himself and attached himself as a director and Newton as the female lead. “But then I impregnated her and we had to find someone else. I guess we both ended up having one of my babies in production.”

Parker is now writing a comedy thriller, which he describes as “Dog Day Afternoon” meets “School of Rock.”

Anne Villaceque

Blonde hair, sexual repression, emotional turmoil and French glamour are the stuff of Anne Villaceque’s second feature “Riviera,” which promises to establish her as a strong voice among European femme helmers.

Villaceque developed the pic on the back of a documentary about teenage girls in Marseilles and their relationship with their bodies, their dreams and their reality-TV-driven culture.

“I like to write stories that have a direct relationship with what I see around me in society,” says Villaceque, whose previous feature “Petite Cherie” also dealt with issues of female sexuality.

Villaceque says she was also inspired by Visconti’s “Belissima.” “This magnificent and eternal story about a mother who pushes her daughter to become what she was not able to be herself.”

Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe

Just like Terry Gilliam, who discovered Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe while they were still at film school and gave them their first job directing the making-of for “12 Monkeys,” this helming duo isn’t strictly European.

Yet, despite being U.S. born and bred, it is in Europe where their quirky originality found a home. After two documentaries about Gilliam’s movie-making adventures, including the incredible “Lost in La Mancha” about the helmer’s ill-fated Don Quixote project, “Brothers of the Head” is their first foray into feature-length drama.

Produced by Blighty’s veteran producer Simon Channing-Williams, the pic tells the story of Siamese twins plucked from obscurity by a music promoter and groomed into a freakish rock ‘n’ roll act.

The script was penned by Tony Grissoni, who also wrote Gilliam’s “Brothers Grimm.” How’s that for symmetry?

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