• Friday, 3 October 2014
    EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Matthews’ X+Y among Toronto haul

    Koch Media has secured UK rights to a well-received trio out of the Toronto Film Festival and market, comprising X+Y, Goodnight Mommy and The Dark Horse.
    Morgan Matthews’ drama X+Y, about a socially awkward but highly intelligent teenager who finds new confidence when he is selected for the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad, was acquired up from Bankside.

    Asa Butterfield stars alongside Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan and Sally Hawkins in the touted drama which gets its European premiere at the London Film Festival.

    Andreas Wiseman, 25th September 2014
  • Friday, 3 October 2014
    A fiction loosely based on fact that adds up to a satisfying, compelling drama.
    Shrewdly calculated to warm hearts with formulaic yet affecting elements of emotional uplift, “X+Y” zeroes in on a young math whiz who only gradually comprehends the basics of establishing relationships with other people. Deconstructionist critics and mainstream moviegoers alike may find it difficult not to reference “Rain Man,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “David and Lisa” while describing the movie to potential ticketbuyers. But even though such comparisons are hardly inapt, director Morgan Matthews’ debut fiction feature — inspired by his acclaimed 2007 documentary “Beautiful Young Minds” — proves potent on its own terms as a satisfying, compelling drama with definite crossover potential on screens of all sizes.

    Much like its nonfiction predecessor, “X+Y” focuses on student competitors in the Intl. Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). In concert with scripter James Graham, Matthews has spun off a scenario about a character not unlike one of the more memorable subjects in “Beautiful Young Minds,” a neurodevelopmentally challenged math prodigy named Daniel Lightwing.

    In the world according to “X+Y,” the prodigy is Nathan Ellis, a Yorkshire youngster who, during the film’s early scenes, is diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, and credibly portrayed by Edward Baker-Close as a skittish introvert who fixates on the fascinating “patterns” of mathematics. Young Nathan manages to forge an affectionate bond with his simpatico father (Martin McCann). But after Dad dies in an auto mishap, the boy is unable, or unwilling, to share a similarly warm connection with Julie (Sally Hawkins), his indefatigably attentive and endlessly patient mom.

    Nathan is scarcely more emotionally open with Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), a sardonic yet sensitive teacher who once excelled as a math prodigy, and even competed in the IMO, before a toxic mix of self-loathing and multiple sclerosis undermined his ambitions. But Martin is quick to recognize and eager to nurture Nathan’s nascent skills. By the time Nathan is old enough for Baker-Close to pass the character over to top-billed Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”), Martin is ready for a return to the IMO — this time, as the tutor for a most promising up-and-comer.

    Humphreys and Hawkins give such fine, full-bodied performances in their richly detailed roles, and develop such pleasing chemistry as Martin and Julie warily warm to each other, that “X+Y” veers perilously close to losing its balance during its middle section. Indeed, there are times when some viewers will feel disappointed, or frustrated, when the narrative shifts away from the Martin/Julie subplot — and from Martin’s understandable anxiety about the inevitable failing of his health — so the film can continue charting Nathan’s progress.

    Fortunately, Matthews and Graham have made Nathan’s own narrative sufficiently engrossing to sustain empathy and generate a rooting interest as the protagonist journeys to Taipei for an IMO preliminary, interacts with other young prodigies — including Luke (an outstanding Jake Davies), a socially maladroit autistic who’s a closet Monty Python fan — and ultimately arrives at Cambridge for the IMO version of the main event.

    Butterfield is admirably unafraid to duly emphasize Nathan’s less endearing qualities — his arrogant self-absorption, his refusal to even hold his mum’s hand when she longs to express maternal love — while at the same time subtly expressing first the aching loneliness of his character’s obsession, and later the first signs of Nathan’s emergence from his emotional isolation. The latter development is expedited by Nathan’s sweetly chaste budding relationship with Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), a member of the Chinese IMO team.

    At several points throughout “X+Y,” but especially during the locally colorful Taipei street scenes shot by ace lenser Danny Cohen, Matthews’ background as a documentarian is obvious and beneficial. But Matthews also demonstrates expertise as a director of actors, getting creditable performances across the board, including a slyly funny supporting turn by Eddie Marsan as squad leader for Team UK at the IMO. There are a few heavy-handed touches to the storytelling — most notably, an almost comically portentous closeup of a traffic light to presage the death of Nathan’s dad — but nothing unforgivable.

    By the way, mathephobes shouldn’t fret: Matthews and Graham avoid delving too deeply into the specifics of mathematics, offering only snippets of questions and calculations to keep the plot moving. Still, “X+Y” does communicate an unabashed awe for the prowess demonstrated by Nathan and his fellow IMO competitors, which should delight those viewers who actually know what the characters are talking about.

    Joy Leydon, September 10th 2014
  • What We Did on Our Holiday review – ambitious and likable family fun
    David Tennant and Rosamund Pike play the put-upon parents of three kids in this feature-format development of Outnumbered.
    It’s impossible not to enjoy this big-hearted and sweet-natured British family movie from Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin – effectively a feature-format development of their smash-hit BBC TV comedy, Outnumbered, which pioneered semi-improvised dialogue from the children. It creates a terrifically ambitious (and unexpected) narrative with a tonne of sharp gags. I would have liked to see Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner reprise their roles as the mum and dad, but because we have all seen their fictional children grow up on the small screen that is not really feasible. David Tennant and Rosamund Pike are Doug and Abi, the troubled parents of three boisterous kids: they’re heading up to Scotland for the 75th birthday of Doug’s unwell dad, Gordy (Billy Connolly), which means staying with Doug’s uptight brother, Gavin (Ben Miller), and his depressed wife, Margaret (an excellent Amelia Bullmore). This means maintaining all the secrets and lies of families, and Gordy finds the only people he really gets on with are Doug’s young children. He respects their natural honesty and confides to them his hopes and fears. Jenkin and Hamilton have created a smart script, with laughs and subtleties: could there be a connection in Gordy’s mind between the own goal in football and the wartime friendly fire that caused a family tragedy? Very impressive and likable stuff.

    Peter Bradshaw, 25th September 2014
  • Origin Pictures is teaming with theatre company Paines Plough on a scheme to develop playwrights’ screen-writing skills.

    Origin, producers of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and TV series Jamaica Inn , is launching the scheme with backing from its BFI Vision Award and in collaboration with BBC Films.

    The partnership will support four playwrights in their writing across film and theatre over six months through workshops, mentoring and editorial support.

    The selected writers are Alia Bano, Stacey Gregg, Ali Taylor and Alexandra Wood.

    Bano won the Charles Wintour Award in 2009 for Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Awards for her play Shades, which ran at the Royal Court that year. Her play Gap was commissioned by the Royal National Theatre for their Connections 2011 season.

    Wood, whose plays include The Eleventh Capital (Royal Court), The Lion’s Mouth (Rough Cuts/Royal Court), Unbroken (Gate Theatre), Decade (co-writer/Headlong) and an adaptation of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans (Young Vic/American Repertory Theater), won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2007.

    Taylor is currently working on a television adaptation of his comedy play Fault Lines (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs) as well as a new play created during an attachment at the Royal Court Theatre.

    Gregg’s plays includeOverride (Watford Palace Theatre) and Perve (Abbey Theatre Dublin). She is currently working on commissions for the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Clean Break, and BBC NI.

    James Grieve and George Perrin, artistic directors, Paines Plough, said: “We are thrilled to be working in partnership with Origin Pictures, BBC Films and the BFI Vision Award to support four of the UK’s most exciting writers over the next six months. We are privileged to be working with the stars of the future.”

    Paines Plough, founded in 1974 by writer David Pownall and director John Adams, specialises in commissioning and producing new plays.

    The company has worked with writers including Tony Marchant, Abi Morgan, Enda Walsh, Dennis Kelly and Jack Thorne.

    Origin is developing first films with playwrights Nick Payne and Polly Stenham while feature X+Y, the first film from James Graham, whose new play The Angry Brigade premieres in a Paines Plough production in September, is currently in post-production and funded by the BFI and BBC Films.

    Origin has also just wrapped shooting on playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first original screenplay, The Woman in Gold, directed by Simon Curtis and starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.
  • Katie Holmes, Max Irons and Charles Dance among the new additions to the true story starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Daniel Brühl.
    Principal photography has begun on Woman in Gold and will run for eight weeks on location in the UK, Austria and the US.

    The true story of a Jewish refugee who took on a government to recover art treasures that belonged to her family - produced by Origin Pictures, BBC Films and The Weinstein Company - will be directed by Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn).

    The all-star cast includes Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (The Queen), Ryan Reynolds (Captives) and Daniel Brühl (Rush).

    New additions to the cast include Katie Holmes (The Giver), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Max Irons (The Riot Club), Antje Traue (Man of Steel), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey), Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run), and Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise).

    Making his screenwriting debut is playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell (The Pride). The film will be produced by David Thompson for Origin Pictures and by Kris Thykier, executive produced by Harvey and Bob Weinstein for The Weinstein Company, and BBC Films’ Christine Langan. US distribution and international sales are being handled by The Weinstein Company, as first revealed by Screen Daily in February.
    Mirren will play Jewish woman Maria Altmann who starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting The Lady in Gold, 60 years after she fled Vienna during the Second World War.

    Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg, she embarks on a major battle that takes them to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the US Supreme Court, forcing her to confront difficult truths about the past along the way.

  • Jed Mercurio’s adaptation of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Ben Vanstone’s adaptation of Laurie Lee’s novel Cider With Rosie, Adrian Hodges' adaptation of LP Hartley’s The Go-Between and J B Priestley’s classic play An Inspector Calls - these four filmed 90-minute adaptations of iconic 20th-century works will be written and directed by some of our finest writers and directors.
    The season was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC One and Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama.

    Charlotte Moore says: “These four classic works each represent a real moment in our recent history when Britain was on the cusp of great social and cultural change. This season of films aims to explore and contextualise the enormous changes in the way men and women lived and behaved in the 20th century. They all tell uniquely intense and personal stories about people living in Britain 100 years ago.”

    Ben Stephenson says: “Whilst each film will stand as a wonderful treat in its own right, themes about the role of women, class, sexuality and impact of the First World War will ebb and flow across them. I hope that, viewed together, these four masterpieces will present an intelligent and involving picture of what it was like to live in Britain 100 years ago.”

    Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee

    Adapted by Ben Vanstone and directed by Philippa Lowthrope, made by Origin Pictures.

    David Thompson and Ed Rubin from Origin Pictures say: "We are so thrilled to be making a new version of Laurie Lee's timeless classic that has been adapted so masterfully by Ben Vanstone and will be brought to life by the brilliant Philippa Lowthorpe. BBC is the perfect home for this cherished story and we hope it will be a real delight for all the family as we follow the trials and tribulations of Laurie's adolescence in the years following the Great War."

    A vivid memoir of Laurie Lee’s childhood, Cider With Rosie is set in an idyllic Cotswold village, during and immediately after the Great War. It is an evocative coming-of-age story that also chronicles life in a rural world as yet untouched by electricity and cars, depicting a place that sits firmly on the brink between the past and future.
  • LONDON — Endemol has inked an exclusive first-look development and distribution pact with drama producer Origin Pictures, which is led by former BBC Films topper David Thompson.
    The three-year deal will see Endemol provide development funding in return for exclusive first-look distribution rights on Origin television titles.

    Endemol has an existing relationship with Origin, with Endemol Worldwide Distribution handling the distribution rights for the miniseries “Death Comes to Pemberley,” which launched at Mipcom 2013.

    Origin was launched in 2008 by Thompson, who ran BBC Films for over a decade. He works alongside head of film and television Ed Rubin and head of development Claire Marshall on a wide-ranging slate of ambitious drama projects.

    Origin’s television credits include the television movie “Freefall,” starring Dominic Cooper; BAFTA nominated miniseries “The Crimson Petal and the White,” starring Romola Garai, Chris O’Dowd, Gillian Anderson and Richard E. Grant; miniseries “Hidden,” starring Philip Glenister, Thekla Reuten and David Suchet; and the upcoming BBC1 miniseries “Jamaica Inn,” starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Matthew McNulty. “Jamaica Inn” will be distributed by Fremantle Media Enterprises.

    Origin was also the producer of the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated feature film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”

    Cathy Payne, CEO of EWD, commented: “We have really enjoyed working with Origin Pictures on ‘Death Comes to Pemberley,’ and are looking forward to cementing our future relationship with this three-year commitment. EWD cannot wait to bring Origin’s exciting new ideas and ambitions to the international marketplace.”

    Thompson commented: “Endemol is such a dynamic company with a great track record, and we have very much enjoyed getting to know Cathy and her team. We feel certain that Origin has found a fantastic creative and commercial home as we move forward with our ambitious plans.”
  • Origin Pictures has promoted long-time head of development Ed Rubin to head of film and TV and secured paid developments from the BBC and ITV.
    The UK film and TV outfit, responsible for forthcoming BBC1 mini-series Jamaica Inn and horror film The Awakening, is working on a drama about female spies during WWII from Crimson Petal & the White adaptor Lucinda Coxon for the BBC and a contemporary London-based crime series written by Ed Whitmore for ITV.

    Origin is also working on a Christopher Monger adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s medieval–set series of books Order of Darkness.

    Headed by former BBC Films boss David Thompson, the business is currently producing The Weinsten Company and BBC Films-backed feature Woman in Gold, set to star Helen Mirren.

    Meanwhile Thompson has handed Rubin the more senior head of film and TV role after he has worked across all of Origin’s film and television projects for the past six years, including as exec producer of Jamaica Inn.

    Rubin will be replaced by Claire Marshall, who joined the London-based outfit from Channel 4 in early 2013.

    Marshall was previously development editor for C4 drama where she co-produced episodes of new talent strand Coming Up for Touchpaper Television and set up C4’s new writing initiative 4Screenwriting.

    Thompson commented: “Ed and Claire are two of the most talented executives in the industry. Both have real flair, imagination and commitment and a wide range of skills across the whole gamut of film and tv production.”
  • Friday, 21 February 2014
    Helen Mirren attached to star in Simon Curtis’s period drama.
    TWC has boarded prestige drama The Woman in Gold, the Origin Pictures-BBC Films period drama ripped from the headlines about a Jewish refugee who took on a government to recover art treasures that belonged to her family.

    According to ScreenDaily sources, TWC will handle international sales, US distribution and has been across the production of the project.

    Helen Mirren is attached to play Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee who, with her young lawyer Randol Schoenberg, took on the Austrian government to reclaim a haul of prized Gustav Klimt paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis during the Second World War.

    The haul includes Klimt’s The Lady In Gold, Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, itself worth more than $130m.

    Simon Curtis will direct the Maria Altmann story, written by acclaimed playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell. The production is aiming to shoot later this year with additional cast now assembling.

    TWC has been aboard the project since the end of last year and is due to launch concerted sales on the film around Cannes.

    The collaboration reunites TWC with My Week with Marilyn director Curtis and producers BBC Films, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom producers Origin, and Harvey Weinstein with The Queen star Mirren.
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom nominated for a BAFTA award for Outstanding British Film.

    Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will compete against Rush, Saving Mr. Banks, The Selfish Giant, Gravity and Philomena in the category of Outstanding British Film. It is the first South African/British co-production to receive this recognition.
    Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom will be released in cinemas throughout South Africa on 28 November 2013 and will be in UK cinemas January 3rd 2014