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).
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.