HBO has picked up Veep, a D.C.-set comedy pilot about a female Vice President of the U.S. from British comedian, writer and director Armando Iannucci. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is in talks for the lead in the project, set “very near the White House” and centered on former Senator Selina Meyer who finds being Vice President is nothing like she expected and everything everyone ever warned her about. Iannucci co-wrote and will direct the pilot as well as executive produce with Chris Godsick and Frank Rich under the New York Times columnist’s deal with HBO. Iannucci has long political satire experience. His popular and BAFTA-winning British comedy series The Thick of It satirizes the inner workings of the British government. (Ianucci wrote Veep with one of his top writers on that series, Simon Blackwell). The Thick of It spawned the 2009 feature spinoff In the Loop starring Tom Hollander and James Gandolfini that earned an Oscar nomination for its script, co-written by Iannucci and Blackwell.
UPDATE: I’ve been told that the decision to get rid of UK Film Council was Ed Vaizey’s alone, and not, as has been posited, by his boss Jeremy Hunt having a gun pointed at his head. What the government ministers disagreed about was timing. Vaizey wanted to consult the industry as part of his summer film review. It was Hunt who forced through the scrapping.
Roger Michell, director of Notting Hill, has called British culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision “astonishing” and “catastrophic” without the merest hint of consultation with either the wider film industry of the UKFC itself. “The decision flies in the face of economic sense,” says Michell. Armando Iannucci, director of hit British comedy In the Loop, tweeted: “Mad move by macho numbercrunchers. It made UK a gargantuan load of money. They’re wangpots.” Fellow director Mike Leigh said he’s “reeling” from the shock, while Mike Figgis said the government doesn’t strike him as being people who understand the film business, or even the culture business.
Among name filmmakers, only Alex Cox (Repo Man) has welcomed its closure, calling it “very good news for anyone involved in independent film.” What’s startling is how much hatred there is for the Film Council out there on the message boards, despite columnists and opinion-formers all calling this a black day for the British film industry. Of course, the UKFC rejects 95% of people who apply for money so there’s bound to be bitterness. Rebecca …