'Le Choc,' 'Rafta' also on slate

LONDON — Optimum Releasing, the U.K. distrib owned by StudioCanal, is getting into the remake business.

Optimum’s CEO Will Clarke has spent several months combing through the French major’s vast library for titles to remake as British movies, working closely with StudioCanal’s senior veep of U.S. production and remake development Ron Halpern.

They have now put their first three projects into development — the Graham Greene classic “Brighton Rock,” French thriller “Le Choc” and last year’s National Theater stage hit “Rafta Rafta.”

Optimum has hired former U.K. Film Council development topper Jenny Borgars as head of production to oversee the slate. Ex-Working Title and UKFC exec Dan McCrae has also joined the company as head of development.

“StudioCanal sees a huge talent base in the U.K., and a huge opportunity,” Clarke said. “It’s got an immense library of product, which includes a lot of British movies, and we’ve thought long and hard about a process to exploit that asset effectively.”

Remakes will just be one aspect of a wider push into British production by Optimum and StudioCanal.

“We will be looking to secure some of the bigger properties in the U.K., but we will also be looking at original material with new talent, and U.K.-centric low-budget genre films,” Clarke said.

“The primary reason is to fill the slate of our various distribution outlets — in the U.K., France, Benelux and Germany — and to feed StudioCanal’s international sales arm.”

“Brighton Rock” is being written and will be directed by Rowan Joffe, who co-wrote “28 Weeks Later” and “Last Resort.” Joffe is updating the story from the 1930s to the 1960s, to give it a more modern feel. The project will be steered by Paul Webster (“Atonement”).“Le Choc,” a 1981 French hitman thriller that starred Catherine Deneuve and Alain Delon, will be remade by Pete Travis. Don MacPherson is writing the screenplay.

“Rafta Rafta” is a crowd-pleasing play by Ayub Khan Din, writer of “East Is East.” Set in an immigrant Indian community in northern England, it’s a comedy about the family pressures on a couple of newlyweds that prevent them from consummating their marriage.

Khan Din’s script was based on Bill Naughton’s 1961 play “All in Good Time,” which itself was adapted into the 1966 Boulting movie “The Family Way,” part of the StudioCanal library.

Andy Harries, whose credits include “The Queen,” will produce “Rafta Rafta,” with Khan Din writing the screenplay.

“We’re not producers, we’re a financing and distribution company, so we are retaining the services of good producers to work with us,” Clarke said. “Optimum is co-financing the development of its remake slate with coin from the U.K. Film Council.”

Optimum, which was bought by StudioCanal two years ago, will release the first slate from digital studio Warp X this year. It partnered with Paramount Vantage on “Son of Rambow,” which has grossed over $8 million in the U.K. to date.

Halpern has already set up a number of U.S. remakes from the StudioCanal library, including “Escape From New York” and “Dambusters.”

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