As it increases its investment in original British fare, Sky has acquired Parthenon Media Group to establish an international distribution arm within the company. Parthenon founder and CEO Carl Hall will oversee the new business. Sky has said it intends to up its annual spend on British content creation to £600M by 2014. Funds generated by sales of its original programming will be funneled back into UK production. Among shows commissioned this year are dramas and comedies starring Hayley Atwell, Brenda Blethyn, Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, Eddie Marsan, Stellan Skarsgård, David Tennant, Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams. Sky1 comedies Stella, Starlings and Trollied have all been ordered for a second run and drama Hit & Miss, starring Chloe Sevigny, started its run in May. The indie Parthenon has distributed and produced factual and children’s programming since 2002 and has 1,400 hours in its catalog, according to its website. As of June 30, 2011 it had gross assets of £18.2M, although financial terms for the Sky deal were not disclosed.
The UK’s Sky Arts, which earlier this year announced it would triple its budget, has commissioned a series of one-off original TV dramas and comedies that will fall under the Playhouse Presents label. Among the notable projects, Walking The Dogs sees Emma Thompson play Queen Elizabeth in a comedy-drama about an intruder who made his way into her bedroom in 1982. Walking The Dogs is based on the night Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace, entered the Queen’s boudoir and chatted with her for a while until the police took him away. The title refers to Fagan’s window of access – a guard who was supposed to be positioned outside the Queen’s door was out walking her dogs. Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) and Russell Tovey, who has a role in the Emma Thompson-penned Effie, are co-stars. Other shows just announced by Sky Arts, part of the BSkyB group of channels, will include such British talent as David Tennant, Olivia Williams, Stephen Fry and Hayley Atwell along with some non-Brits like Stellan Skarsgard and Harry Shearer. The latter is starring in Nixon’s The One, a verbatim account of Richard Nixon’s
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.
Men in Black 3 is casting up. I’m told that Emma Thompson will be taking a lead role of Oh, the head of MIB. She’ll join Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin in the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed film for Sony Pictures Entertainment. She’s negotiating. Principal photography begins in mid-November.