How do you follow up winning your first picture Oscar? If you’re Graham King, the answer is to head back to your native U.K. and start filming “Young Victoria.” Pic marks King’s first return to Blighty following a successful career Stateside, most notably as the man responsible for helping Martin Scorsese get his long-time-coming director Oscar for “The Departed.”
Given King’s own regal surname, it is perhaps fitting that “Young Victoria” tells the story of the early life of Queen Victoria and her passionate romance and marriage to Prince Albert. Continuing the royal theme, project was pitched to King by Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson.
“I’ve been looking for a film to shoot in England for quite a while,” King says from the film’s U.K. set. “This is where I grew up, but I could never find anything that was worthy of me coming over and making a movie. This project came together really, really well. There are some movies that fall into place, and this was one of them. Julian Fellowes delivered a fabulous screenplay, a great first draft and from there we were off. What was interesting to me was it was this pure love story of a young queen completely falling in love with this guy and vice versa. It wasn’t just a period piece.”
King is reteaming with Scorsese to co-produce the pic, with Canadian helmer Jean Marc Vallee (“C.R.A.Z.Y.”) directing from a script by Academy Award-winning Fellowes. Emily Blunt (“The Devil Wears Prada”) plays the young queen, with Rupert Friend (“Pride & Prejudice”) in the role of Albert. Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson and Jim Broadbent round out the cast.
Despite its British setting and subject matter, pic almost didn’t make it to Blighty. “The dollar is just horrendous. There was one point where we thought, ‘let’s shoot this in Eastern Europe,’ but I really wanted to keep the authenticity of the U.K.,” King says. “We’re shooting in such amazing locations. We were at Walton House in Salisbury last week, which is a beautiful place, and this week we’re in Oxford at Blenheim Palace. It cost quite a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I think it’ll be worth it. People will see it onscreen.”
Pic has presold to Australia and Scandinavia, and rights for major territories, including the U.S., remain up for grabs.
Project also marks a big step up for helmer Vallee, whose intimate family drama “C.R.A.Z.Y.” drew critical acclaim — and admiration of both King and Scorsese — if limited auds Stateside. “Working on the two films is not that different,” says Vallee in between takes. “I try to make personal films, and that’s what I’m trying to do with this. The big difference is that it requires a lot of reading and research to re-create the period. I wanted to become more British than the Brits to understand the story. Now I feel I’m in control of the subject.”
Pic should finish lensing by the end of October with producers hoping it will be ready to bow at Cannes. As for King, he’s busy rushing to best the possible strike. Producer has Johnny Depp starrer “Shantaram” set to go into production in January with helmer Adrian Lyne’s “The Town” to follow soon after. The frenzy of dealmaking has seen King putting in 20-hour days, first on the U.K. “Victoria” set and then hitting the phones in the L.A. time zone. “I’ve never seen Hollywood quite like it. Everyone’s maneuvering themselves and preparing themselves for the strike,” King says. “It’s one crazy town right now.”