One of the strongest pre-sellers at last year’s Cannes was a modestly budgeted British film about a stuttering king. Many buyers had already picked up the script at the previous AFM, but FilmNation’s promo reel gave the first real inkling of the phenomenon that “The King’s Speech” would become. The Cannes market often provides an early glimpse of the films that will step into the Oscar spotlight come Venice, Toronto and beyond. Here are some of this year’s British candidates hoping to follow in the footsteps of “The King’s Speech” this fall.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
With John Madden directing Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson as the residents of a care home for elderly Brits in India, Fox Searchlight and Participant Media are clearly hoping this culture clash dramedy will play to the older upscale crowd and awards voters.
Worldwide distrib: Fox Searchlight
“A Dangerous Method”
Viggo Mortensen as Freud and Michael Fassbender as Jung spar over Keira Knightley at the dawn of psychoanalysis in early 20th century Vienna. David Cronenberg directs for Oscar-winning British producer Jeremy Thomas, financed largely by European pre-sales and German subsidies.
“The Iron Lady”
With no film this year about a British monarch, this is the next best thing. Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher with Jim Broadbent as her hubby, Denis, feels like a marriage made in Oscar heaven. First footage will be unveiled in Cannes. Pre-sales have been red hot, with only the U.S. and Japan still open. But the U.K.’s first female prime minister remains a controversial figure. Can “Mamma Mia!” director Phyllida Lloyd and writer Abi Morgan craft a portrait compelling enough to transcend the political divide?
“My Week With Marilyn”
Another Weinstein pic set in mid-20th century England about the real-life relationship between an iconic public figure and a commoner. Michelle Williams plays Marilyn Monroe and Eddie Redmayne is the young assistant director who gets caught up in the off-screen drama during the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl.” Simon Curtis directs, David Parfitt (“Shakespeare in Love”) produces. Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi add kudos pedigree.
Sales: The Weinstein Co.
Lone Scherfig’s follow-up to “An Education” stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as best friends who may or may not be meant for each other. Story, at turns romantic and heart-breaking, revisits them every St. Swithin’s Day for two decades, from college graduation to middle age. Contemporary love stories aren’t typical Oscar fodder, but this one has a tragic twist, and Scherfig and Hathaway both have form.
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
“Slumdog” scribe Simon Beaufoy returns with an adaptation of Paul Torday’s bestseller, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, mixing romance with a twist of geopolitical satire. Ewan McGregor leads an attractive cast as the British government scientist tasked with bringing salmon fishing to a river in the Arabian desert to curry favor with a friendly sheik. Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas co-star.
This New York-set drama about man grappling with sex addiction, by Turner Prize-winning video artist turned BAFTA-winning director Steve McQueen, is the next film from the producers of “The King’s Speech.” It’s hard to imagine that “Shame” will enjoy quite the same popular appeal, but Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan could generate awards heat.
“Tinker, Tailor,Soldier, Spy”
John LeCarre’s classic Cold War thriller gets the bigscreen treatment from Swedish helmer Tomas Alfredson and Working Title. Top-notch cast led by Gary Oldman and Colin Firth has already driven hefty pre-sales and may attract serious kudos consideration come the fall. Universal picked up North American rights after originally putting the project in turnaround to StudioCanal.
After Tom Ford defied the skeptics with his self-financed movie debut, why not Madonna? Putting aside questions about her talent, the greatest challenge facing her British-made “W.E.” is whether audiences are ready for a different angle on the story of King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson so soon after “The King’s Speech,” particularly with a less sympathetic depiction of the Queen Mother.
Sales: IM Global
“The Woman in Black”
This period chiller from the revived Hammer horror label stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role as a Victorian lawyer beset by a ghost. Not obviously awards fare, but director James Watkins and writer Jane Goldman both have rising reputations.
After BAFTAs for her first two gritty arthouse films, Andrea Arnold makes a bid for a wider audience with her adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic Gothic romance. But focusing her film on the childhood and teenage years of doomed lovers Catherine and Heathcliff, and casting unknowns to play them, indicates she’s not making any creative compromises.