PBS‘ Britcom Vicious is retro in form, contemporary in subject matter and could not have been made on a U.S. network owing to the age of its actors, the creator and stars said today at TCA. Vicious stars Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as Freddie and Stuart, a gay couple who have been together for nearly 5 decades. The comedy, which already has aired its first season in the UK on ITV, would not have been done in the U.S. at this time, because both stars are in their 70s, all parties discussing the show at the Winter TV Press Tour agreed. This came the morning after NBC announced it was developing a sort of Golden Girls update — because, NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt said, it’s something he’s not seeing on the primetime TV landscape. While TV critics marveled at the show getting made at all — and PBS’ courage in broadcasting it, starting in July — McKellen, appearing via satellite, insisted it’s still much easier for actors in their 70s to get work than for actresses. Jacobi, also via satellite, said the public is clamoring for programming about older characters, without elaborating. He did say how good it is to be in his 70s and still be asked to perform (he also stars in the British series Last Tango In Halifax, also airing on PBS, which earlier today made official its second-season pickup).
The BAFTA-winning drama has been renewed a day ahead of the December 24 sophomore-season finale on BBC One. Last Tango In Halifax stars Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as widowed seventy-somethings who rekindle a passion from their teenage years. The third season of the show, which won the BAFTA Award for Best Drama in May, will begin production in 2014 for broadcast later in the year. The series from RED Production Company is created, written and executive produced by Sally Wainwright. It airs stateside on PBS.
Will & Grace exec producer Gary Janetti created Vicious with playwright Mark Ravenhill. When the sitcom premiered on ITV last April, it was the highest-rated comedy launch on any UK channel in 2013. The first six-part series has not run in the U.S., but I hear negotiations are underway. The second series order was announced today at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Veteran British thesps Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi play a constantly bickering couple who’ve lived together in a small London flat for nearly 50 years. Vicious is a Brown Eyed Boy production in association with Shine’s Kudos.
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.
Kevin Zegers, Chris Noth, Derek Jacobi and Neve Campbell are in various stages of negotiations to join the $28 million, 12-part British miniseries Titanic: Blood & Steel, which has begun filming in Belfast. Unlike Simon Vaughn’s internationally produced four-hour miniseries Titanic, which was picked up by ABC and ITV1, Titanic: Blood & Steel, also an international co-production, doesn’t have U.S. or UK distribution yet. It chronicles the building of the Titanic, beginning in Edwardian Belfast in the early 1900s and depicting how the greatest leviathan of all time was hand made in a city on the edge of revolution. Zegers, repped by ICM and Untitled, will play Mark Muir, the metallurgist on the world’s greatest shipbuilding project who discovers potentially fatal flaws in the quality of metal being used to build the Titanic. Noth is expected to play financier J.P. Morgan; Jacobi would play Lord William Pirrie, chairman of the company that built the ill-fated liner; and Campbell is a reporter covering the liner’s maiden voyage. Directed by Ciaran Donnelly and written by Mark Skeet, Matthew Faulk and Alan Whiting, Titanic: Blood & Steel is produced by De Angelis Group, Take 5 Prods and Epos Films.
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.
ARC Entertainment has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the ContentFilm International medieval action thriller Ironclad. ARC made the deal in collaboration with Barry Gordon’s XLrator Media, and will release the film theatrically in June. Directed by Jonathan English, the film is the true story of a motley crew of battle-hardened warriors who go to war to defend their country’s freedom.
Rome‘s James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti and Jason Flemyng star with Jamie Foreman, Aneurin Barnar, Mackenzie Crook, Vladimir Kulich and Charles Dance. English wrote the script with Erick Kastel and Stephen McDool, and Mythic International Entertainment’s Rick Benattar, Andrew Curtis and English produced it.
“The partnership between ARC Entertainment and XLator is the perfect team to distribute Ironclad,” said ContentFilm’s Jamie Carmichael. ContentFilm most recently generated the Ian Palmer-directed documentary Knuckle that premiered at Sundance. The film, about a longstanding dispute between two clans in Ireland that gets periodically settled through bare knuckle brawls, came away with a remake rights deal CAA made at HBO for a potential series from the Eastbound & Down team of Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green of Rough House Pictures.
Here’s a trailer for Ironclad:
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 to the founder of Opus Dei.
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.