Thatcher, Nelson projects in lineup

LONDON — Lord Nelson, Margaret Thatcher and the classic TV series “Upstairs Downstairs” are among the icons of Britishness that figure on the joint development slate between Pathe and BBC Films, backed by the U.K. Film Council.

Pathe and the BBC have unveiled the first five projects that they are developing together under their UKFC slate deal, which was announced a year ago.

Fay Weldon, who wrote the first episode of “Upstairs Downstairs” in 1971, will write the script of the new movie version for producers Mike Mansfield and Hilary McLaren Tipping.

Set in London at the beginning of the 20th century, it’s the story of the aristocratic Bellamy family and their servants, as the whole household deals with the loss of the family fortune in the South African Boer War.

“Thatcher,” as previously announced, focusses on the British Prime Minister in the 17 days immediately prior to the Falklands War. It’s being written by Brian Fillis for producer Damian Jones.

“Emma and Nelson” is the story of Emma Hamilton, the mistress of the 19th century admiral Lord Nelson, whose victory over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar was one of the key turning points in British history. Mrs Hamilton played a vital political role ahead of the battle, but after Nelson was killed the British establishment turned on her.

Julian Fellowes is writing the script for Nick Barton and Suzanne Mackie of Harbour Pictures.

“Harry Potter” producer David Heyman is developing “The Thirteenth Tale,” based on the modern gothic novel by Diane Setterfield about a best-selling author who decides to tell the real story of her life to a young writer before she dies.

Finally, Paul Andrew Williams (“London to Brighton”) is writing “The Choir,” an original screenplay about a recently widowed old man who gets more than he bargained for when he joins an unconventional choir. Ken Marshall is producing for Steel Mill Pictures.

“We believe that this, our first slate, shows our ambition and our desire to secure the very best of British talent,” said Pathe UK managing director Cameron McCracken. “We have had to compete aggressively for these properties, and we are confident that the industry is now aware that we are ready to step up to the plate for the right projects.”

David Thompson, head of BBC Films, commented, “The co-development of this diverse group of exciting projects further strengthens the bond between Pathe and the BBC, and I am delighted that this relationship has been facilitated by the strategic intervention of the UKFC.”

The Pathe/BBC partnership is one of six slate development deals supported by UKFC.

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