You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

U.K. Agency Curtis Brown Flexes Its Prod’n Muscle

Film, TV work are part of the expansion, but it’s not about packaging

Since joining Curtis Brown in 1997, Nick Marston (pictured above) has led its transformation from musty literary boutique into one of London’s largest and most dynamic talent agencies, with its own flourishing production arm.

As chairman of the theater, film and TV department, Marston reps the film rights to novelists such as John Le Carre and David Mitchell. His writing and directing clients include John Hillcoat, Rowan Joffe, Hossein Amini and Niels Arden Oplev.

But his most radical and controversial move was the 2008 launch of Cuba Pictures to develop, package and produce for Curtis Brown clients.

The label recently announced plans for a $20 million, seven-part BBC TV series based on Susanna Clarke’s novel about warring 19th century magicians, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.”

That’s a significant step up following the acclaim for its first two productions: John Crowley’s telepic “Boy A” (pictured below) which launched the career of Andrew Garfield, and Rufus Norris’ debut “Broken,” which premiered at Cannes last year and took top prize at the British Independent Film Awards.

(Cuba Pictures’ works include “Boy A,” the film debut of thesp Andrew Garfield.)

Cuba is just one part of Curtis Brown’s expansion. In April, the agency took over lit boutique Conville & Walsh. Christopher Little, the former agent for J.K. Rowling, brought his shingle under Curtis Brown’s umbrella last year.

The acting division, under Sarah Spear, has carved out a lucrative niche repping teen heartthrobs, such as Robert Pattinson, Kaya Scodelario and Tom Holland. “It was a conscious decision for us to invest in young agents and young clients,” Marston notes.

Unlike in the U.S., British agents are allowed to act as producers — but many, including some of Curtis Brown’s rivals, think they shouldn’t.

Marston defl ects talk of conflict of interest. He argues that Cuba champions more challenging material that clients might otherwise be unable to get made, rather than picking the most obviously commercial plums.

“The most important thing,” Marston says, is “to set a benchmark of quality, to produce films that, if we hadn’t put them together, wouldn’t exist.”

“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” was languishing in turnaround from New Line when Cuba rescued the project and reconceived it as event TV.

Marston also points out that Cuba doesn’t just package its own material with its own clients. “Boy A” brought together two clients, author Jonathan Trigell and screenwriter Mark O’Rowe, but neither director Crowley nor star Garfield were repped by the agency.

“I’m against that word ‘packaging,’ ” Marston says. “A packaged film doesn’t sound like a very alluring proposition.”

Vet producer Dixie Linder joined Cuba last year, and Marston’s longtime sidekick, Tally Garner, recently gave up her agenting chores to work full-time on production.

Upcoming movie projects with BBC Films include “London Road,” directed by Norris, based on a musical play; and “The One Below,” a chiller that marks the directing debut of playwright David Farr.

More Film

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' First Reactions: 'Most Emotional, Most Epic MCU Film'

    The end is finally here. “Avengers: Endgame” had its world premiere Monday night at the Los Angeles Convention Center and reactions on social media from fans, journalists and critics are already pouring in. The reaction has so far been almost universally positive, with several commentors warning fans of the movie’s emotional elements. Brandon Davis wrote [...]

  • Josh Brolin, Kathryn Boyd. Josh Brolin,

    'Avengers: Endgame's' Josh Brolin: Thanos' Butt Is a 'Beautiful, Purple Peach'

    On the eve of “Avengers: Endgame’s” world premiere, everyone’s thoughts have turned to the one crucial detail that could be the difference between life or death for the Avengers: Does Thanos have a butt? “I don’t know what that whole thing is about! I really don’t!” Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos, told Variety‘s Marc Malkin [...]

  • Tessa Thompson'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    'Avengers: Endgame's' Tessa Thompson Says Valkyrie Would Spoon Captain Marvel, Thor

    Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and upcoming “Avengers: Endgame,” had no problem addressing speculation about the character’s sexuality at the “Endgame” red carpet premiere Monday. The “Sorry to Bother You” actress explained that she played her Marvel character as bisexual. “In the canon, [Valkyrie] is bisexual. You see her with [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Writers Guild Says Over 7,000 Members Have Fired Agents

    Over 7,000 members of the Writers Guild of America have fired their talent agents, the Hollywood union said on Monday. As promised, the guild delivered a first round of termination letters to agents in a show of support for the WGA’s full-on war with the Association of Talent Agents. “Today the Guild delivered a first [...]


    Brazil’s Ancine Freezes Incentives, Threatening Film-TV Industry Paralysis

    Brazil’s Ancine agency, its foremost public-sector source of film funding, has frozen all of its incentive programs, potentially near paralyzing new production in Latin America’s biggest film-TV industry. The dramatic decision, which has left Brazil’s industry is a state of shock and intense fear for its future, comes as it has taken further hits. In [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez Reteams With STXfilms on Romantic-Comedy Co-Starring Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez is reteaming with STXfilms on the upcoming romantic-comedy “Marry Me.” Kat Coiro is directing the film and Owen Wilson is in final negotiations to join the pic, which will likely shoot this fall. The script was written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Lopez and Wilson both [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    Steve Golin, Prolific Producer and Founder of Anonymous Content, Dies at 64

    Steve Golin, an Oscar-winning producer who was founder and CEO of Anonymous Content, died Sunday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 64. Golin was a pioneer in blending the business of talent management with production. Anonymous Content, which Golin founded in 1999, worked with a stable of big name artists such as Steven Soderbergh, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content