Lily James and Dominic Cooper, who starred in the Mamma Mia! sequel, are collaborating on a film about an illicit love affair.
The pair have been meeting at a restaurant in
Savage told me, exclusively, that the film, developed by the three of them, is about lovers who’ve left other partners to be together. ‘It’s about the kind of exciting, absolutely-has-to-happen love,’ said Savage, who worked with Cooper on this year’s The Escape, which has garnered critical praise for Cooper and his co-star Gemma Arterton, who also produced it.
Lily James, left, and Dominic Cooper, right, have been involved in secret talks in a London restaurant along with director Dominic Savage about a new project ‘Is This Love?’
Arterton’s role as a wife and mother who leaves her husband (Cooper) has earned her a best actress nomination in the British Independent Film Awards, held on December 2. ‘That couple are out of love,’ Savage said. ‘But these two (James and Cooper’s characters) have no choice but to be together. It’s a connection that’s so powerful and strong.
‘It’s a very real, very physical relationship about what happens when the chemistry and electricity combine. Pow! When something is so passionate, how difficult is it to sustain in real life? How does love like that thrive when it’s so extreme?’
More from Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail…
Savage said the picture would be full of characters, but James and Cooper would be the only people on screen. ‘The other characters are referred to. Alluded to. You might hear them on the other end of a phone.’
The trio wanted to film Is This Love? before Christmas — before Cooper travels to Australia to shoot the new season of Preacher, and James goes into rehearsal for the Ivo van Hove stage version of All About Eve.
But the plan now is to film in July, when Cooper’s back and James has completed her stage run opposite Gillian Anderson at the Noel Coward and shot the new Working Title and Netflix film version of Daphne du Maurier’s thriller Rebecca. (It’s based on the 1938 novel, not Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 movie.)
‘It’s always exciting doing it quickly, but I’m glad we’re waiting on this,’ the director said.
The trio will meet again next month for more ‘honest and frank conversation’. They plan to finance the film themselves. ‘The idea is that if we keep the budget really small, you can just about make it,’ Savage said.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web, with Claire Foy playing Lisbeth Salander, is unlikely to win any awards.
But, perversely, it could help Foy’s chances of gaining accolades for her sublime portrait of the stoical Janet Armstrong, wife of astronaut Neil Armstrong, in Damien Chazelle’s sublime First Man. Because Spider’s Web gives Oscar and Bafta voters an opportunity to see Foy’s extraordinary range. She’s a quietly powerful force in First Man and a full-on action heroine as the latest incarnation of the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Frasier’s ready for the Impossible Dream in La Mancha
Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, pictured, is coming to the London West End
Hollywood star Kelsey Grammer is coming to London to joust with windmills in a new production — the first in the West End in 50 years — of the musical Man Of La Mancha, which will also star luminous lyric soprano Danielle de Niese.
Staging the re-telling of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote has been a quest for producer Michael Linnit who, as a young agent, represented Keith Michell, the London production’s original star in 1968.
La Mancha’s rights, now controlled by the families of Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion (who, respectively, wrote the book, score and lyrics) have been difficult to untangle. But Linnit, with partner Michael Grade, has acquired them for London, Broadway and Australia. ‘There’s a whole bunch of songs — The Impossible Dream is the big one — and I’ve been learning them in my home, in my shower; anywhere I can,’ said Grammer, who will take the dual lead role of the doddering old knight and his creator, Cervantes. It’s about keeping going, and being in the fight,’ said Grammer, right.
The actor, who starred in Frasier and X-Men: The Last Stand, will bring his wife and youngest children with him for La Mancha’s run at The London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera, from April 26 to June 8. ‘When I’m going to be away working for a long while, the kids come too. I don’t think there’s enough money in the world that would keep me away from them if it’s over a few weeks. They’re all excited and thrilled to be visiting London.’
The musical Man Of La Mancha, which will also star luminous lyric soprano Danielle de Niese
He’d heard about Ms de Niese being cast as country wench Aldonza, who becomes the Princess Dulcinea in the fevered imaginings of the errant knight.
‘That’s exciting,’ he chimed. She’s excited, too. The Australian-born opera star, who lives with her husband and son at Glyndebourne, told me that at 18 she played roles in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, and has wanted to return to the musical theatre stage ever since.
Lonny Price, the show’s director, travelled to meet her when she was performing La Boheme in Chicago.
‘I’ve never taken my heart out of musical theatre and I want to do more,’ said de Niese, who also presented a singing contest on Sky Arts.
Meanwhile, she plans to work with Price on her dual roles. ‘I want to find the real heart of her. There’s more to her than just being a voluptuous sex bomb,’ she said, in reference to how the role was represented by Sophia Loren in the film version.
Tickets are on sale from this morning via the ENO.
Now that’s what a call a crowning glory…
Saoirse Ronan was gifted the role of Mary Queen Of Scots six years ago, aged 18. Directors came and went, but it wasn’t until Josie Rourke was signed to direct the film that everything clicked into place.
‘I didn’t have the measure of Mary when I was 18,’ Ronan told me before she’d finished work on the picture, which had its world premiere in Los Angeles last night and has a gala here on December 10 before opening on January 18. ‘By the time we were filming, I’d grown up enough to understand Mary’s strengths, doubts and fears.’
The young actress gives an outstanding portrayal of a monarch whose reputation, according to Rourke, has been unfairly rubbished.
Saoirse Ronan was gifted the role of Mary Queen Of Scots six years ago, aged 18
‘She was heavily conspired against,’ Rourke said — mostly by men, including Lord Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s top minister; and the Scottish Presbyterian minister John Knox, who wrote disparaging pamphlets about the Scottish queen. ‘He wrote how terrible Mary is. How sexual she is. She was this nasty woman, according to them.’
What shines through in Ronan’s performance, and Rourke’s stunning directorial debut in Mary Queen Of Scots, is that Mary was savvy. It was the men in her court — and Elizabeth’s (an almost unrecognisable Margot Robbie) — who were determined to drag her down.
When we met for tea and coffee in Fitzrovia, I asked Rourke why men are so afraid of powerful women. She smiled, and said she thought women were afraid of powerful women, too. History hasn’t been kind to women who lead, she pointed out. ‘Often we construct this myth around powerful women, where they seem completely impregnable, where we just see the surface.’
The performances she has elicited from Ronan and Robbie show the enormous power wielded by the queens, but also their vulnerability: ‘The cost of what it is to lead.’ Rourke, outgoing artistic chief of London’s Donmar Warehouse Theatre, reflects some of her own experiences in the film.
She remembers attending all-male meetings at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and taking a deep breath before walking to the table.
Margot Robbie was almost unrecognisable as Queen Elizabeth I
In the film, we see Ronan nervously twisting her hands before going through a door to meet imperious courtiers. ‘I wanted to display the humanisation,’ Rourke said. When Mary arrives in Scotland from France, she’s with her ladies-in-waiting, nicknamed ‘the Maries’, or ‘the Four Marys’.
Jenny Shircore, the Oscar-winning hair and make-up designer, gave Mary and the Maries funky hairstyles that changed as the film progressed. ‘Like a girl group,’ Rourke said.
Costume designer Alexandra Byrne, who won an Oscar for Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age, was revolutionary on the sewing machine. ‘All the costumes, bar one or two, are made from denim,’ Rourke said, adding that they still had all the Renaissance corseting.
Some silhouettes are influenced by the fashions of the Forties and Fifties, ‘as women started to enter the workplace’, because Mary and Elizabeth were working women. The men wore denim, too; but not down to their ankles. ‘It’s a period obsessed with men’s calves,’ Rourke said. ‘They are effectively wearing little hot panties, showing their legs off. There are some superb men’s calves in this film — but not all men look good in tights.’
Rourke had screenwriter Beau Willimon include birth and menstruation scenes. ‘It’s a period drama where Mary gets her period,’ she said. When early versions were shown, ‘some people had a visceral response to that . . . They were shocked by it, but as a woman it’s not shocking. It’s just not seen in films’.
Rourke had the backing of Tim Bevan, who runs the British film company Working Title with Eric Fellner. She said Bevan and his colleagues at Focus Features trusted her with a big enough budget to make the film she wanted: with a stellar cast that also features David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Adrian Lester, Jack Lowden, Brendan Coyle and a particularly striking Ismael Cruz Cordova (an American) as Mary’s Italian-born courtier David Rizzio.
Rourke pursued Margot Robbie ardently. ‘She has enormous humility,’ she told me, adding that Blanchett is Robbie’s heroine, and she revered her Elizabeth. ‘Do you think that’s something I can do?’ she recalled the actress asking.
Bevan knew Rourke was right for the film. ‘She has run a building; she knows about budgets, history, actors and putting a story together.’
The director told me the greatest compliment her Lancastrian mother could pay anyone is to call them ‘a bag of sense’. Ms Rourke is definitely a bag of sense.
Watch out for…
Peter McEnery, who will perform Walter & Lenny, the one-man play he also wrote, about the artistic friendship that developed between the Very Reverend Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, and Leonard Bernstein
Peter McEnery, who will perform Walter & Lenny, the one-man play he also wrote, about the artistic friendship that developed between the Very Reverend Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, and Leonard Bernstein.
In 1963, Hussey wrote to the composer asking if he would create a piece for the cathedral’s 1965 music festival. Hussey wanted something the combined choirs could sing at the August festival.
The result was Chichester Psalms. The play is based on the correspondence between the men. McEnery will perform the piece at Chichester’s Assembly Rooms on November 23 as part of a double bill that also features Bernstein’s son Alexander talking about his father’s work.
The next day the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the combined choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester cathedrals will perform Chichester Psalms in the West Sussex cathedral.