EXCLUSIVE: Karen Gillan, co-star of BBC TV’s sci-fi show, is to play a spiky New Jersey high school teenager who finds herself trapped Alice In Wonderland-style in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Gillan wakes up in mythical 13th century Verona with all the people she knows from her high school life playing characters in the play. And she wants to get out because she knows how the play ends. Gillian Anderson will play the dual roles of Gillan’s mother and the Nurse, while Robert Sheehan, star of cult E4 TV comedy The Misfits, will play the school nerd who becomes her Romeo. The $7 million Romeo and Brittney will start shooting in May. David Baddiel, writer of The Infidel, will be making his directing debut, producer Arvind Ethan David tells me. Baddiel is well known over here as a novelist as well as a stand-up comedian. David is pitching the project as “Shakespeare In Love meets Clueless.” He says: “We both love literate teen comedies and we wanted to do our own version. After all, 10 Things I Hate About You was based on The Taming On the Shrew just as Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma and Easy A is inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. And what is Twilight if it’s not Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves?” Slingshot will co-produce with an Eastern European producer and is just about to go out to financiers. “There’s been strong interest from people we did The Infidel with,” says David. “It’s another body-swap comedy along the same lines.” The Infidel, starring Omid Djalili as a Muslim who’s horrified to realise that he’s really Jewish, has been sold to 60 countries including the US, Australia and Singapore as well as in Britain. It’s about to come out in Italy, Mexico and India before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, John Simm, best known for playing The Master in Doctor Who, is starring opposite Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) in Exile, a 3-part BBC thriller which has started shooting. Paul Abbott, whose AbbottVision is making the show for the Beeb and who wrote the original BBC State of Play, dreamt up the premise and brought in Danny Brocklehurst, one of the writers from another Abbott show, Shameless, to pen the script. Simm plays a London journalist who heads home north with his tail between his legs after his reputation in the metropolis is shredded. Back home, he finds his father Sam (Broadbent) in the grip of Alzheimer’s. Simm finds himself racing against time and his father’s dementia trying to get him to reveal a secret that not only will reveal a devastating crime – but also the reason why Simm was exiled from his family when he was a child. Red Production Company is also co-producing for BBC. Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama Commissioning is calling it “a moving and shocking script that will be a real treat for BBC One viewers”.