Chiwetel Ejiofor has joined blockbuster film The Old Guard, which is taking up more space than the latest Bond picture at Pinewood Studios, about a group of top-flight mercenaries with a secret: they’re immortal.
The prize-winning actor joins Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, who plays Andy, a 5,000-year-old Amazon from the Herodotus age of ancient
This column broke news of the film back in February; it’s now being directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood in the Home Counties and Morocco.
Prize-winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor has joined blockbuster film The Old Guard, about a group of top-flight mercenaries with a secret: they’re immortal
Ejiofor’s character Copley is an ex-CIA operative who hires the fighters for a rescue mission. He’s not immortal.
Nor is sociopathic businessman Steve Merrick, to be played by Harry Melling, who also joined the production yesterday, along with Veronica Ngo, who played a fighter pilot in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She will play a character called Quynh.
Other ancient soldiers in the film, which is based on a series of graphic comic books created by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, include Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli).
Theron and her private army have fought battles over the centuries, so they’ve seen it all.
Sociopathic businessman Steve Merrick is to be played by Harry Melling (left). Veronica Ngo (right) will play a character called Quynh
But Theron’s Andy (short for Andronika) is weary and wants a break from killing for a living.
They’re great comic novels. Even though Rucka has written the screenplay with Prince-Bythewood, I’m not certain yet how closely it aligns to the central story in the books.
The picture reunites Ejiofor with Netflix. The streaming and production powerhouse released the actor’s acclaimed directorial debut film, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. Melling was also in a Netflix production, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs.
Stephen Fry shows his love of Ealing comedies by penning new adaptation of 1949 classic Kind Hearts And Coronets
Master of wit Stephen Fry has adapted classic comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets, the 1949 film in which Alec Guinness played eight members of an eccentric English aristocratic family, for the London stage.
The play — no, it’s not a musical — will open in the West End next year, subject to obtaining the right theatre and casting, the show’s producer Sonia Friedman told me yesterday.
She applauded Fry, right, for having written ‘a sparkling new adaptation of the classic and timeless Ealing comedy’.
Master of wit Stephen Fry has adapted the classic Alec Guinness comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets
Friedman, the producer behind the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child play, added that Fry ‘brings his customary wit and dazzling wordplay to this deliciously dark tale of class, revenge and madcap murder’. She said that ‘quite simply, Stephen’s script sparkled’.
Kind Hearts And Coronets, full of dark humour, charts the murderous misbehaviour of Louis Mazzini (played by Dennis Price in the movie). Reduced to working as a draper’s assistant, Mazzini is determined to avenge his mother, who was disinherited by her titled relatives when she married outside her class (it’s set in 1900). So he decides to methodically murder each member of the D’Ascoyne clan that stands between him and a dukedom.
‘He chopped down the family tree!’ screamed the tagline on the film’s original poster. ‘It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms,’ was one killer line uttered by Mazzini.
In the original, Alec Guinness played eight members of an eccentric English aristocratic family
Kind Hearts And Coronets, full of dark humour, charts the murderous misbehaviour of Louis Mazzini
Coming on top of his turn as Fagin in David Lean’s version of Oliver Twist, released the year before Kind Hearts, Guinness’s skill at capturing all eight relatives (the Duke, the Banker, the Parson, the General, the Admiral, young Ascoyne, young Henry and Lady Agatha, the suffragette) propelled him up the ranks of stardom.
Price won praise, too; as did the film’s leading ladies: Joan Greenwood as the deliciously dangerous Sibella, and Valerie Hobson as Edith D’Ascoyne, widow of one of Mazzini’s first victims. Casting is underway to find stars for the principal roles.
Once again, one actor will play all D’Ascoynes. Clearly, theatrical magic will be involved.
At a reading of Fry’s script recently, there was so much laughter tears were rolling down cheeks
A restored version of Kind Hearts, directed by Robert Hamer, went on special release two weeks ago to celebrate its 70th anniversary, and a collector’s edition will be available from StudioCanal on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday.
The stage adaptation will be directed by Sean Foley. At a reading of Fry’s script recently I heard from some who were there that there was so much laughter tears were rolling down cheeks.
Guinness recalled being invited to play four of the victims in Kind Hearts. ‘I started reading and burst out laughing on the first page or so. I sent back a telegram that said: “I see no point in playing four parts. How about me playing eight.” To my astonishment, they agreed.’
There’s a stormer blowin’ in from the North … and it’s heading West
Girl From The North Country, the acclaimed drama packed solid with songs written by Bob Dylan, is blowin’ into town again for a West End run.
The scorching show, written and directed by playwright Conor McPherson, will begin previews at the Gielgud Theatre from December 10. The production will be hightailing it over from the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto (where it runs from September 28).
McPherson told me the company is new, with the exception of David Ganly and Finbar Lynch, who were in previous London productions.
The new cast includes Katie Brayben, Donald Sage Mackay, Gloria Obianyo and Colin Bates as the Laine family, who run a guest house in Depression-era Duluth, Minnesota (Dylan’s birthplace) where guests, always in financial difficulty, drop in and out.
Girl From The North Country will begin previews at the Gielgud Theatre from December 10. The new cast includes Katie Brayben (left) and Gloria Obianyo (right)
Anna Jane Casey and the aforementioned Ganly play one such couple, who move in with their son.
Rachel John, who was in the original London cast of Hamilton, plays Mrs Neilsen, another boarder.
Nicolle Cherrie, who was in Lynette Linton’s production of Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe, is also in the show; along with Shaq Taylor, who was in Sweet Charity, Josie Rourke’s farewell effort at the Donmar.
McPherson said the show’s different from the one that opened at the Old Vic two years ago. It’s more in keeping with the Public Theater version which, incidentally, transfers to Broadway in February.
There might be some different Dylan numbers at the Gielgud. ‘I can never resist with so many good songs,’ McPherson told me.
He observed that the tone of Girl From The North Country is ‘a little bit like now, with people reaching for easy answers, unfortunately, to the big questions — and that’s frightening and worrying’.
McPherson revealed that there’s the possibility of a film version, too. ‘There has definitely been some strong interest,’ he said. ‘A lot of people said it would be really good on the screen.
‘I would imagine it would have to be opened out much more . . . probably have the same feeling, and based on the same story, but developed for a cinematic presentation.’
Sarah & Jo in a battle for justice
Jack Thorne has been looking for justice. Not for himself, but for the characters he has created for C4 drama The Light.
Sarah Lancashire and Joanna Scanlan play parents involved in a corporate manslaughter prosecution following the death and serious injury of their children in an explosion at a construction site for a new car battery factory.
Thorne said The Light’s about what happens in ‘left behind’ communities. It takes place in the fictional Welsh town of Glyngolau, and is the third part of what he calls ‘the blame trilogy’ — the others being National Treasure (2016) and Kiri (2018); both four-parters on C4.
Sarah Lancashire and Joanna Scanlan play parents involved in a corporate manslaughter prosecution
The Light’s about what happens in ‘left behind’ communities and it takes place in the fictional Welsh town of Glyngolau
He said The Light is about ‘when you lose someone, and what looking for justice feels like; but also about that thing of how the justice system is stacked against it’. Thorne claimed there has never been a successful corporate manslaughter prosecution. ‘No one has served jail time in relation to a corporate charge involving tragic death,’ he said.
It’s a topic he has always wanted to look at — even more so after Grenfell. But he didn’t want to go anywhere near that tragedy. ‘It’s very hard to tell any story about that, because it feels so raw,’ he said.
However, he felt compelled to get on with The Light, which will also star Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen and Westworld) as the executive pitted against the locals in court. Nabhaan Rizwan plays her assistant. Cast members include Mark Lewis Jones as a councillor and husband of Ms Lancashire’s character. Newcomer Jade Croot plays their teenage daughter.
Thorne has also been working on new play ‘the end of history . . .’, directed by frequent collaborator John Tiffany, which is now previewing at the Royal Court with David Morrissey, Lesley Sharp and Zoe Boyle.
The original production of Phantom Of The Opera, directed by Hal Prince, will tour the UK with the ravishing designs created by the late Maria Bjornson, and the choreography of the great Gillian Lynne, who died last year.
Cameron Mackintosh, who produces the landmark show with its composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, told me it’s been more than two decades since a version using Bjornson’s celebrated work, introduced when it opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre 33 years ago (where it’s still running), was seen in regional theatres. Mackintosh said designer Matt Kinley will work from Bjornson’s blueprints to create the touring set for the show, which will be launched at the Curve in Leicester from February 24, 2020.
‘We’ve had to really re-invent it, based on Maria’s designs,’ the impresario told me. ‘It’s going to be terrific, and we’re going to be able to give it a new life, drawn from Maria’s palette.’
Mackintosh said both he and Lloyd Webber were in full agreement about mounting the original production. Several years ago a version was created to go ‘on the road’ in the U.S. and here that didn’t use all the elements of Bjornson’s majestic drapes and sweeping staircase, because it was easier to pack and unpack.
‘The show itself is great,’ Cameron said. ‘Andrew wrote a great musical with Charles Hart.’
Next year Phantom will also haunt the Palace, Manchester, from March 26; Bord Gais in Dublin from June 10; the Birmingham Hippodrome from July 29; and the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, from September 23. Tickets for the Curve go on sale on July 4. Be aware they will be available for Manchester on July 1 and Dublin on June 28.