Vaughn takes ‘Cake,’ Ritchie fires ‘Revolver’

After producing three movies for Guy Ritchie — “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch” and “Swept Away” — Matthew Vaughn will make his debut as a director with an adaptation of J.J. Connolly‘s London crime novel “Layer Cake.”

The $8 million pic stars Daniel Craig (“Road to Perdition”) as a savvy drug dealer who wants to quit while he’s ahead. But when his final score spins out of control, he discovers there are powerful forces with no intention of letting him go straight. Co-stars include Michael Gambon, Colm Meaney, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng and Sienna Miller.

Sony is bankrolling the movie under its first-look deal with Vaughn and Ritchie’s Ska Films. Shooting starts June 30. Pic originally was developed for Ritchie, but Vaughn stepped in when his partner passed.

“When Guy decided he didn’t want to do it, I was putting a list together of possible directors, but I had been working on it for two years and it was so in my head that I realized I should do it,” Vaughn says. His original ambition was to be an actor, then to be a director, but he ended up as a producer because “you didn’t have to have any qualifications, just the gift of the gab and get on with it.”

Apart from Ska’s regular production crew, he’s using “Trainspotting” designer Kave Quinn. “I’m color-blind, so I really need someone to take care of that for me,” Vaughn confesses.

Meanwhile, Ritchie has finally settled on his next movie — “Revolver,” from his original screenplay and set in the criminal milieu of Las Vegas. This will be the first of Ritchie’s movies that Vaughn won’t produce, because he will be fully occupied directing his own. “What Guy doesn’t need is another director around,” Vaughn says. “I learned a lot about directing from him, and he’s learned a lot about producing from me.

Dance directs Dames

Another first-time director making the move from another field is actor Charles Dance. He has written and will direct “Ladies in Lavender,” an adaptation of an early 20th-century short story by little-known writer William J. Locke. Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench will co-star as two unmarried sisters in 1930s Cornwall whose lives and emotions are stirred up when they find a half-drowned young man washed up on a beach. Anjelica Huston and Michael Gambon (again) co-star. The $6 million movie is being produced by Nik Powell and Nick Brown, with equity from Baker Street Media and Entertainment Film Distributors taking U.K. rights. Shooting is scheduled for September.

U.K. sellers plot Brit pic bazaar

Having succeeded in killing off the London Screenings, moves are afoot among U.K. sales companies to create a new showcase event for foreign buyers that’s specifically devoted to British movies.

Pathe Intl.’s Alison Thompson is spearheading the proposal to launch a Brit equivalent of Unifrance’s popular Paris Screenings, with coin from the U.K. Film Council. The original idea was for the event to take place in January, adjacent to the Paris Screenings, so that distribs could take the Eurostar straight from one to the other. But the latest thinking is that midsummer would be more suitable, enabling sales outfits to mop up their Cannes titles while also previewing their fall releases.

“Unless you have one of the more prestigious titles, it is increasingly hard to get distributors to sit down and watch your movie at a festival or a market,” Thompson says.

Don’t assume the event would take place in London, though. The Film Council’s obligation to spend some of its money outside the capital means a more likely home is somewhere like Brighton, the fashionable south coast resort where the BBC holds its annual TV showcase.

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