About 18 months ago, former HBO Films chief Colin Callender moved his family back to Manhattan – he’s from the U.K. and spent the better part of three decades working with company head Chris Albrecht. He’d already started Playground LLC, with producing interests in film, television and Broadway. Now he’s got two Tony contenders: Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina, which he co-produced with Fred Zollo and Bob Cole with the Manhattan Theatre Club, and the revival of Hedwig And The Angry Inch, which has affirmed that even — or maybe especially — as a slightly-botched-job transsexual German rock star, Neil Patrick Harris can sell out the house seven times a week at premium prices.
Related: EMMYS: Awardsline Screening Series Launches With Starz’s ‘The White Queen’
But before the Tony Awards on June 8, he has another venture that literally — well, physically, at least — dwarfs both those shows: Kenneth Branagh’s New York acting debut in the title role of the Scottish play, an import from Manchester, England having a limited run in the vast, demanding expanse of the Park Avenue Armory. What was once a regimental marching hall has been converted to the battlefield opening of the play, which promises to launch Shakespeare’s drama of power, lust and powerlust with a visceral thrill. For Callender, who got his start working at the Royal Court Theatre, it’s like going from sub-atomic particles to Gravity. Or something.
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The Awardsline Emmy Screening Series kicked off last night with the first episode of the Starz-BBC miniseries The White Queen, “In Love With The King.” The series tells the story of three women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anna Neville– vying for the hand of King Edward IV in 1464 against the backdrop of the War of the Roses. Executive produced by Colin Callender and adapted from Philippa Gregory’s books, White Queen has been such a success for Starz that a sequel, The White Princess, is already in the works. White Queen has generated the largest female audience for any Starz series as well as three Golden Globe noms for best miniseries, lead actress Rebecca Ferguson (Elizabeth) and supporting actress for Janet McTeer.
In a conversation with Deadline’s Dominic Patten following the screening at the Landmark Theatre, Callender commented on the resonance of the show. “The reason why Starz wanted to do it was because it shows history from the point of view of women,” he said. “I think the female audience wants to see a show that reflects their lives with complexity and embraces the complications in their lives.”
Related: Nellie Andreeva’s Q&A With ‘White Queen’s Colin Callender
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Colin Callender‘s first producing effort, a nine-hour TV adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production of The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby launched UK’s Channel 4 and won him his first Emmy in 1983. After a stint as an independent producer in his native Britain, Callender joined HBO where he shepherded films and miniseries like Angels In America, John Adams, Maria Full Of Grace and American Splendor to the tune of 104 Emmy Awards, 29 Golden Globes, 3 Oscars, and top awards at the Sundance Film Festival. Since leaving HBO in 2008, he has kept a low profile. Having started his career in theater, as stage manager at London’s Royal Court Theatre, Callender returned to his roots and built a theater slate during a break from television because of a three-year non-compete with HBO. His first play ever as a producer was Nora Ephron‘s Lucky Guy starring Tom Hanks, which was a hit last year. A year later, he is probably the busiest Broadway producer at the moment with three high-profile shows, Hedwig And The Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris, which already is sizzling at the boxoffice, Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina and Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth in his New York debut. Callender also has teamed with J.K. Rowling and British theater producer Sonia Friedman for an original stage play for UK theatre based on the Harry Potter stories. Read More »
Harry Potter may have hung up his Firebolt, but his creator J.K. Rowling is not entirely done with the boy wizard. In September, Warner Bros and the author announced they were putting a new film series in the works starting with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, an original story based on the Hogwarts textbook that appears on a reading list in the first Potter tome. Now, Rowling is taking Harry to the London stage. She will collaborate with a writer on, but not pen herself, a new play about the early years of The Boy Who Lived. Rowling will also be a co-producer on the project with Sonia Friedman (The Book Of Mormon) and Colin Callender, the former HBO Films president who’s busy in the UK with a Dangerous Liaisons adaptation percolating at the BBC as well as a miniseries based on Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. The Daily Mail‘s Baz Bamigboye got the jump on the story late this week, and since then, a posting to Rowling’s Facebook page says the as-yet untitled play will unveil what it was like to be the boy in the cupboard under the stairs at No. 4 Privet Drive. Read More »
BBC Two and Masterpiece are hooking up for a “major” adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Tony and Olivier Award-winner Mark Rylance is now confirmed to play Thomas Cromwell in the six-part serial that follows Cromwell’s rise from the lowly son of a blacksmith to becoming King Henry VIII’s closest advisor in the Tudor court. BAFTA-winning helmer Peter Kosminsky is directing from a script by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Peter Straughan. Wolf Hall is a co-production from Company Pictures, Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment, and Masterpiece for BBC Two in association with BBC Worldwide.
The project was first tipped in 2011 as a four-part adaptation of just 2009’s Wolf Hall, but in 2012, Mantel’s second book in the Cromwell trilogy, Bring Up The Bodies, won her a second Booker prize and the miniseries will combine the two under the Wolf Hall title. Both have been best-sellers and gave Mantel the rare distinction of winning two Bookers, the UK’s highest literary honor. Shooting starts in spring 2014 for an as-yet determined airdate on BBC Two in the UK and Masterpiece in the U.S. in 2015. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The BBC and Colin Callender‘s Playground Entertainment are developing Howards End, a miniseries project based on E.M. Forster’s classic novel. Deadline has learned that Kenneth Lonergan, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Gangs Of New York and You Can Count On Me, will pen the adaptation in what marks his first move into television. The project is not yet greenlighted, but is envisioned as a four-parter for BBC Two. The novel was first published in 1910 and explores social and class divisions in early 20th century England through the prism of three families. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala won an Oscar for her feature script adaptation with Merchant Ivory’s 1992 film. Playground, in association with City Entertainment and KippSter Entertainment, acquired rights to turn the novel into a miniseries late last year. Callender will executive produce with Joshua D. Maurer, Alixandre Witlin and David A. Stern; Polly Hill is exec producing for the BBC. Callender recently exec produced the Starz/BBC limited series The White Queen, and Playground is also co-producing BBC mini Wolf Hall with Company Pictures. Lonergan is repped by CAA.
Former HBO Films president Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment today announced that they are turning the Flying Tigers into a ten-hour TV miniseries. The Flying Tigers were ace American volunteer pilots who served under General Claire Chennault fighting the Japanese over the skies of China during the Second World War. Playground has partnered with the Chennault family on the project. “We are in discussions with numerous broadcasters in the US and in China on the project,” Jim Griffith, one of the executive producers of The Flying Tigers, told Deadline. Callender, Griffith and Ron Shelton will executive produce the miniseries. Bill Macdonald, the co-creator and writer of HBO’s Rome will produce and write The Flying Tigers. Filming will begin in China and Louisiana in late 2013. As part of the Chinese Air Force, the three squadrons of the Flying Tigers flew their first mission just 12 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Known for the success in the air and the famous teethed nose art on their aircraft, the Tigers later became part of the USAF for the rest of the war. This isn’t the first time the squad has been depicted on film. Back in 1942, John Wayne starred in a Flying Tigers movie from Republic Pictures.
EXCLUSIVE: Colin Callender is returning to his roots as a British TV producer. Callender’s Playground Entertainment, in association with City Entertainment and KippSter Entertainment, has acquired rights to the classic E.M. Forster novel Howards End to turn it into a miniseries for Britain’s BBC Two. Search is underway for a writer to pen the adaptation, which Callender will executive produce with Joshua D. Maurer, Alixandre Witlin and David A. Stern.
The novel was originally published in 1910 and explores social and class divisions in early 20th century England through the prism of three families: the wealthy Wilcoxes, the gentle and idealistic Schlegels and the lower-middle class Basts. The title refers to the address of the Wilcox family’s country home. Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her star-making turn as Margaret Schlegel in Merchant Ivory’s 1992 feature adaptation. The new take on the material will be the first time it’s adapted as a mini. The rights deal was negotiated by Jonathan Sissons of Peters Frasers Dunlop on behalf of the E.M. Forster Estate. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Starz has picked up The White Queen, a 10-episode drama series based on the best-selling historical novels by Philippa Gregory. The pay cable network has brought in former HBO Films president Colin Callender as executive producer for the series, produced by the UK’s Company Pictures. Callender’s duties on White Queen are part of a larger two-year agreement his company Playground has signed with Starz. Under the pact, Callender also will serve as an exec producer on the second season of Starz’s period drama Magic City. It reunites Callender with his former HBO boss Chris Albrecht, now CEO of Starz, and Starz’s managing director of original programming Carmi Zlotnik, a former 20-year HBO veteran. “Carmi and I have worked with Colin for many years, and we are excited to have such a world-class movie and television visionary lending his talents to our Starz series,” Albrecht said.
Set against the backdrop of England’s Wars of the Roses, The White Queen is an adaptation of three books from Gregory’s The Cousins War series: The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.
Max Irons (Red Riding Hood), newcomers Rebecca Ferguson and Faye Marsay, Amanda Hale (The Crimson Petal & The White), James Frain (The Tudors) and Oscar nominee Janet McTeer star in the series, which is slated to premiere on Starz in 2013. Starz has acquired U.S. domestic distribution rights to The White Queen from Company Pictures’ parent company ALL3Media International. It also has picked up worldwide multiplatform rights — with the exception of television rights in the UK, where the series will air on BBC One, and some TV/home video rights in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
White Queen is described as a tale of love and loss, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder woven through the stories of three different yet equally driven women caught up in the ongoing conflict for the throne: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Read More »