Revamped BBC Films sets slate

Corporation lines up sequel to 'East Is East'

The newly restructured BBC Films has unveiled its latest slate of projects that ranges from uplifting tales of human triumph to globe-trotting explorations of cross-cultural fusion.

BBC Films execs are prepping “West Is West,” a sequel to their 1999 hit “East Is East” about an immigrant Pakistani family living in the northwest of England. “West Is West” updates the story as family patriarch George Khan, who will once again be played by Om Puri, relocates his family back to his native Pakistan. As with the original pic, Ayub Khan Din has written the script with Leslee Udwin producing. Much of the original cast will return for the project, including Jimi Mistry.

Also in development is “Broken,” based on the novel by Daniel Clay, about three families living in a suburban square in the south of England. Marc O’Rowe has written the script with theater director Rufus Norris making his feature directorial debut. Cuba Pictures is co-producing with BBC Films.

Peter Morgan is making his directorial debut with “The Special Relationship,” the third part of his Tony Blair trilogy, which this time looks at the former British prime minister’s relationship with Bill Clinton. Dennis Quaid will play the former U.S. president, with Julianne Moore playing Hillary Clinton. Michael Sheen will reprise his role as Blair.

BBC Films is lining up a stellar cast of seasoned British talent for “Quartet.” Richard Loncraine will direct with Maggie Smith, Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay in negotiations to board the project.

Tilda Swinton has joined the cast of Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” about the mother of a teenage boy who has gone on a killing spree and her struggle to deal with her grief.

BBC Films execs are working with choreographer Matthew Bourne to develop his first foray into features.

Helmer Justin Chadwick is attached to direct “First Grader,” based on the true story of 84-year-old Kenyan Kimani Nganga Maruge, who attempted to take advantage of a Kenyan government initiative to give free elementary school education for all. Initially denied access to go to the school with his fellow first-graders, Maruge eventually took the government to court.

BBC Films has also secured the rights to Vera Brittain’s classic autobiography “Testament of Youth,” which vividly depicted the effects of World War I on a generation of British women.

Also in development are adaptations of Paul Torday’s novel “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” with Kudos/New Regency Films, and Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel “Tamara Drewe” with Ruby Films.

BBC Films is also working with “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman on a musical inspired by the works of Burt Bacharach.

In April, BBC Films upped Christine Langan to creative director with Jane Wright becoming managing director.

Both Langan and Wright were previously part of the BBC Films’ four-person board structure announced in October 2007 by Jane Tranter, the BBC’s former controller of fiction.

The latest BBC Films shakeup came in the wake of Tranter ankling her post in December last year to take up a new position in Los Angeles as executive VP of programming and production for BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm.

“Hopefully the new structure will bring greater focus and have more of an edge to allow us to be more competitive,” said Langan.