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‘Queen’ gives Harries his independence

After 13 years at ITV nurturing the likes of Peter Morgan and Paul Greengrass, Andy Harries is finally breaking out on his own.

Harries, one of the three Oscar-nominated producers of “The Queen,” has handed in his notice as controller of drama and comedy at ITV Prods. (formerly Granada) and will launch his own film and TV production company this spring.

There couldn’t be a better moment for Harries to leave the bosom of ITV, where he has overseen much of the web’s most interesting fiction since 1993, such as hit series “Cold Feet” and recent revivals of “Prime Suspect” and “Cracker.”

London is thronging with U.S. and European players looking for the next breakout Brit movie, and Harries has spent his years in TV developing exactly the kind of talent they are seeking.

“It’s very interesting that so many friends and people I’ve journeyed with are really coming through now into movies,” he says. “‘The Queen’ is so good because it was made by a group of people who all had mature relationships with each other.”

Harries first hired Morgan in 1991 to write a bizarre remake of “A Hard Day’s Night” featuring the briefly fashionable Zimbabwean band the Bhundu Boys and Brit comic Lenny Henry.

“I had two grand for development, and Pete had never been to Africa, so I sent him to Harare on Bulgarian Airlines via Sofia. It took him three days to get there!” laughs Harries.

“Bhundu Beat” never got made. But after Harries joined Granada, he worked repeatedly with Morgan on shows such as “Mickey Love,” “The Jury,” “Colditz” and “The Deal” — the Stephen Frears telepic about Tony Blair’s rise to power, which led directly to “The Queen.”

Harries and Greengrass go back even further. They first worked together in the late ’70s on Granada’s legendary investigative strand “World in Action,” and have been friends ever since. Greengrass made “Bloody Sunday” for Granada in 2002, the film that established him once and for all as a movie director.

At one time, Harries and Greengrass even had a company together, Sleeping Partners, which produced the 1989 comedy movie “Lenny Live and Unleashed,” directed by Harries, and “The Incredibly Strange Film Show,” a series about cult directors presented by Jonathan Ross.

No wonder Harries admits this year’s BAFTA ceremony felt strangely incestuous, when first Morgan, then Greengrass and finally he himself were called onstage by Ross to receive their awards for three different movies — “The Last King of Scotland,” “United 93” and “The Queen.”

“In the end, this is a very small industry and it’s very influenced by TV,” Harries says. “What ‘The Queen’ and ‘United 93’ have in common is that they both come out of that old ‘World in

Action’ culture, which was that you make stuff that matters, that’s about something.”

Not that Harries should be mistaken for a man who takes himself too seriously. He’s a schmoozer with a showbiz streak as pronounced as the blond highlights in his hair. With his Ibiza tan and his tendency to offer his opinions without much forethought, he stood out like a sore thumb among the corporate stiffs at ITV, but was in his element working with maverick comedians such as Steve Coogan and

Caroline Aherne, or rising

directors such as Tom Hooper, Phil Martin and Tom Vaughan.

ITV never cared for making movies. Harries and his fellow Granada producer Christine Langan sneaked “The Queen” in the backdoor, but despite its success, the web shows no interest in repeating the process.

Harries is taking his film slate with him to his new company. He expects to shoot two pics by the end of this year: the next Morgan/Frears project about soccer coach Brian Clough, for Langan in her new job at BBC Films, and “Monkey Business” a comedy by TV writer Andy Watts.

He’s also developing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel “Cocaine Nights” for Peter Webber to direct; a remake by Paul Abbott of his TV series “Reckless”; “Gaza,” a Mideast drama written by Frank Deasey for director Phil Martin (“Prime Suspect”); and “Boy Soldier,” a Sierra Leone war drama written by Guy Hibbert.

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