Snapshots of the key U.K. production companies that fancy working in tandem with U.S. outfits — and a focus on what they have on tap.
Toppers: Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan
The eminently successful Working Title continues to post through-the-roof results. With “Burn After Reading,” Fellner and Bevan are on course to give the Coen brothers the biggest U.S. box office hit of their career. Next up, in addition to awards contender “Frost/Nixon,” is Paul Greengrass’ Iraq drama “Green Zone,” starring Matt Damon; Richard Curtis’ sophomore directorial effort “The Boat That Rocked”; Kevin Macdonald’s political thriller “State of Play”; and helmer Joe Wright’s “The Soloist.” With the most formidable development budget in the country and impeccable cultural and commercial taste, expect Working Title to keep the hits coming.
Topper: David Heyman
Warner Bros.’ decision to move the release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” gave producer Heyman’s other kidcentric (albeit infinitely more harrowing) pic “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” a better shot at attracting young auds in the U.S. this fall. The relentlessly productive Heyman is also readying himself for life after the lucrative boy wizard with a bulging production slate. Coming up are John Crowley-helmed “Is There Anybody There?,” Jim Carrey starrer “Yes Man” and a live-action version of kiddie fave “Paddington Bear.” Heyday is the main contender to Working Title’s supremacy on top of the U.K. film biz.
Toppers: Matthew Vaughn, Kris Thykier
Having inked a three-year, first-look deal with Sony Pictures last year, Marv is ramping up its production slate. In the pipelines are John Madden’s “The Debt” (featuring Helen Mirren as a former Mossad agent in an English-language remake of Israeli pic “Ha-Hov”), Michael Caine starrer “Harry Brown” and Vaughn-helmed comicbook adaptation “Kick-Ass.” With the multitalented Vaughn freed up from running the day-to-day business following the canny hiring of former Freud Communications vice chairman Thykier in January last year, Marv is well-placed to take its business to the next level.
Toppers: Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits
Having inked a development and production deal with Miramax and Film4 this March, Ruby is forging ahead with its plans to build its business. Buzzed-about projects in development already include Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Young Stalin” and an adaptation of Brit humorist Danny Wallace’s “Friends Like These.” Owen, who also has an informal co-producing relationship with Scott Rudin, has a number of other projects in development that predate the Miramax pact, including an adaptation of Zadie Smith’s bestselling novel “On Beauty” and Enda Walsh’s play “Chatroom.”
Toppers: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
It is a time of transition for DNA co-toppers Macdonald and Reich. The duo are in negotiations with Fox Searchlight about renewing their five-year joint venture that expires this year. While production was delayed on their bigscreen adaptation of cult 1970s Brit television cop skein “The Sweeney,” the two remain confident that lensing will begin in the next year.
RECORDED PICTURE CO.
Topper: Jeremy Thomas
A beacon of independence in the U.K. film industry, Thomas remains productive and profitable well into his fourth decade as a producer. This year alone, the maverick maven has Gerald McMorrow’s “Franklyn,” Shawn Seet’s “Two Fists, One Heart,” Jon Amiel’s “Creation” and Vincenzo Natale’s “High Rise” all finished, in production or nearing lensing. As if adhering to the motto the best is yet to come, Thomas is also prepping an unannounced project that promises to be his biggest-budget feature yet.
Topper: Jane Wright
Just when it seemed BBC Films had coped with the exit of longtime topper David Thompson last year and the introduction of a new editorial board, news came that controller of fiction Jane Tranter was ankling her post to take a new one with BBC Worldwide as exec VP of programming and production, overseeing the company’s U.S. scripted and reality business from Los Angeles. It is still unclear what impact the move will have on BBC Films. Regardless, the company, which has maintained its reputation as a development house par excellence, has a raft of buzzy projects in the pipeline, including Andrea Arnold’s sophomore directorial project “Fish Tank,” Armando Ianucci’s directorial debut “In the Loop” and Grant Heslov-helmed “Men Who Stare at Goats,” starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor.
Topper: Tessa Ross
The film arm of hybrid U.K. pubcaster Channel 4 has regained its confidence after a spell of uncertainty by backing a number of well-received pics this year, including Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” and Michael Winterbottom’s “Genova.” Upcoming is Peter Jackson’s eagerly awaited “The Lovely Bones” as well the ambitious three-feature adaptation of David Peace’s “Red Riding Quartet” about the hunt for 1970s serial killer the Yorkshire Ripper. Uncertainty remains, however, over the recently announced budget cuts at Channel 4. Impact is most likely to be in staffing, and the possibility remains that Film4 might cut back on its prized development staff. In January, Film4 also launched its own sales arm, Protagonist, in a joint venture with film finance entity Ingenious Media and production-distribution banner Vertigo Films.