Joe Oppenheimer, commissioning executive at BBC Films, the film production arm of the BBC, has stepped up to take the role of acting head of films, following the decision by existing chief Christine Langan to join Steve Coogan’s Baby Cow Productions as CEO. The BBC is in the process of looking for a permanent replacement for Langan, whose departure was confirmed by the BBC on Wednesday.
In a statement, Coogan told Variety: “Christine’s arrival as head of Baby Cow is a dream appointment for us. She is universally respected as a smart insightful executive with great taste. I experienced this up close when I was developing the film ‘Philomena.’ Christine’s input, guidance and passion helped bring it to life in the best possible way.
“She combines an ambition and vision for the company with a real understanding of how to nurture creative collaborations. Talent trusts her. Building on Baby Cow’s comedy heritage and our exciting film and TV drama slate, she is the perfect person to take the company to a new level.”
Langan joined BBC Films 10 years ago as an executive producer, and has been head of the department since 2009. In that time, BBC Films has supported over 70 independent British films, including Simon Curtis’ Oscar-nominated “My Week with Marilyn,” Lynne Ramsay’s intense thriller “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Stephen Frears’ Oscar-nominated and BAFTA winning “Philomena.”
Other successes during Langan’s time as head of BBC Films include Lone Scherfig’s Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning “An Education,” Armando Iannucci’s Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated “In the Loop,” Jane Campion’s Oscar-nominated “Bright Star,” and Andrea Arnold’s BAFTA-winning “Fish Tank.” “Saving Mr Banks,” from John Lee Hancock, was also Oscar nominated.
Most recently, “Brooklyn,” directed by John Crowley, was nominated for three Academy Awards and won the BAFTA for best British film, while Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake” won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“Swallows and Amazons” and Ricky Gervais’ “David Brent: Life on the Road” are enjoying summer box-office success. “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” had the biggest opening for a British film since “Spectre.” In 2015, during its 25th anniversary year, BBC Films was recognized by BAFTA with the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema, which was collected by Langan.
Upcoming BBC films include Amma Asante’s “A United Kingdom,” which will open the London Film Festival, staring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike; Lone Scherfig’s “Their Finest”; “City of Tiny Lights,” starring Riz Ahmed and directed by Pete Travis; and “The Mercy” from James Marsh, starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz. The first three titles will also feature at the Toronto Film Festival, alongside “Denial,” “The Levelling,” “Lady Macbeth” and “I, Daniel Blake.”
Tony Hall, BBC director-general, said: “I’ve loved working with Christine. She has a real eye for the popular as well as the idiosyncratic. She’s collaborative, ambitious, a brilliant enabler of ideas — and a great ambassador for our country’s film industry. She’s done a great job for BBC Films. We’ll miss her.”