LONDON Opportunity knocks in the most unlikely of places for Christian Colson.
The Brit producer of Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” has seen the modest tale of a Mumbai street kid who dreams of landing a spot on the local version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” become one of the top titles of the season.
Elsewhere, the former Miramax exec has built up a formidable, and eclectic, slate under his Celador production banner just as world events — such as the recent terror attacks in Mumbai — give some of his projects added timeliness.
Currently in post-production are helmer Jon Harris’ horror sequel “The Descent Part 2” and helmer Tom Harper’s dark coming-of-age tale “The Scouting Book for Boys” starring up-and-coming Brit thesp Thomas Turgoose (“This Is England”).
Colson is also busy prepping Brit director Neil Marshall’s historical epic “Centurion,” which is set in the year 87 A.D. during the Roman invasion of Britain and follows a platoon of Roman soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in what is now Scotland.
Marshall, who scored a surprise critical and commercial hit in the U.K. when he directed the first installment of “The Descent,” is set to announce the cast for “Centurion” before the end of the year. Lensing is set to begin next February.
Colson is also in advanced negotiations with a U.S. helmer to direct “Selma,” a drama about the civil rights movement set in 1963 which will feature the characters of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Paul Webb has penned the script and Colson is hoping to start filming on the pic by next summer.
It’s a diverse collection of pics, veering between genres and periods.
“It was a conscious decision on our part not to brand our output,” says Colson, who has been topper at U.K.-based Celador Films ever since March 2005. “Unless you’re a writer or director-led production company generating your own material, it’s very difficult for a U.K.-based producer to just do period dramas or comedies. There isn’t enough good material around so we’ve had to be quite promiscuous in our tastes.”
The growing success of “Slumdog Millionaire”– which has already won several awards, including best film at the British Independent Film Awards and has earned Fox Searchlight over $5.6 million in its first month of limited release in the U.S.– has been tempered by the tragic events in Mumbai, when almost 200 civilians were killed by heavily-armed militants.
“It’s very difficult to react to that kind of an event but I am pleased that we made a film that celebrated that city,” says Colson. “I’m sure the people in Mumbai will bounce back just like the great cities of London and New York.”
A far more serendipitous turn of events is the election of Barack Obama and the relevance it gives to Colson’s civil rights drama “Selma,” which traces the civil rights march in the southern town in Alabama.
“It’s all about the civil rights march that changed America and very much a look at how power works and change happens,” says Colson. “The film would have been timely whether Obama has won or lost but the his victory gives our film a happy ending.”