Fresh from his latest turn as Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, Ian McKellen is headed to the small screen. He’ll star with Derek Jacobi in ITV sitcom Vicious, from Family Guy and Will & Grace producer Gary Janetti. Janetti is scripting and co-created the comedy with playwright Mark Ravenhill. The British acting icons will play partners Freddie and Stuart, two men who have lived together in a small Covent Garden apartment for nearly 50 years. Freddie was a budding actor and Stuart a barman when they first met, but their careers are now pretty much over and their lives consist of reading books, walking their dog and bickering. Frances De La Tour (Hugo, Alice In Wonderland) plays the pair’s best friend. Vicious is produced by the Shine Group’s Brown Eyed Boy in association with Shine’s Kudos Film and TV. Brown Eyed Boy’s Gary Reich is co-producing with Janetti. Ed Bye is directing. Executive Producer is Jemma Rodgers. ITV will air the show in 2013.
EXCLUSIVE: Dakota Fanning will star in the title role of Effie, the Emma Thompson-scripted period biopic about the unfortunate marriage between Euphemia Gray and the famed critic John Ruskin in 1850s London. Richard Laxton (An Englishman in New York) is directing. Though the teenager was gorgeous, Effie’s husband never consummated the marriage over five years because Ruskin was for some reason disgusted by her body. After suffering through a loveless marriage and browbeating by her in-laws, Effie fell in love with Ruskin’s protégé, painter John Everett Millais.
Greg Wise will play Ruskin, and Tom Sturridge will play Millais. Thompson plays Lady Eastlake, who takes Effie under her wing when it was clear the union was destroying the young woman. Julie Walters and Derek Jacobi play Ruskin’s parents, and Edward Fox is in talks to play Lady Eastlake’s husband, Sir Charles Eastlake. He was the main patron of the Royal Academy, which held sway over what constituted fine art. He was already fed up with Ruskin and his radical ideas before that love triangle rocked the art community. Production will begin Oct. 17 in Scotland, London and Venice. The film’s being produced by Don Rosenfeld with Andreas Roald. They raised the $10 million budget through private equity.
Samuel Goldwyn Films bought U.S. rights on the Roland Joffe-directed There Be Dragons, a Spain-set drama that stars Wes Bentley, Charlie Cox, Olga Kurylenko, Derek Jacobi and Dougray Scott. The film will be released May 6. Scott plays a journalist who tries to unravel a mystery that links his father …
This Fall’s line-up in London’s West End lacks the star power of previous years. Gemma Arterton (Tamara Drewe) and Derek Jacobi are the biggest name draw this autumn. Last year, Rachel Weisz, James McAvoy, Jude Law and Helen Mirren all trod the boards. “Looking at autumn’s West End line-up, it’s certainly slim pickings in terms of star power,” theatre consultant Richard Andrews tells me. Ironically, it’s the battered British film industry which is to blame. A number of ambitious British films are shooting or are about to go into production, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, My Week With Marilyn and Thatcher, all tying up top-flight actors. And then there’s the usual Hollywood talent drain. “It’s cyclical,” agent Michael Foster of talent agency Peters Fraser and Dunlop tells me. “Winter will see bigger names announced for the stage.” As on Broadway, it’s becoming increasingly hard to put any kind of show on. That is why theatre producers have to be conservative in their choices, which must appeal to coach parties.