Relationships are key in the filmmaking world, particularly in terms of actually getting the damn things made, and it's no surprise that many of the most successful filmmakers are ones with long-running close partnerships with producers. One of the closest today is that between eclectic filmmaker Michael Winterbottom and his long-term producing partner Andrew Eaton. The pair first worked together on the 1994 TV series "Family," founding Revolution Films together around the same time, and have made a film almost every year.
We talked to Eaton recently when he was promoting his latest film "360" at the BFI London Film Festival, and, as well as news on Beatles biopic "The Longest Cocktail Party," which Winterbottom is planning to direct, and the remake of "Red Riding," we also managed to get updates from him on a host of projects that the two are, or were, planning together at Revolution.
Before Winterbottom took "Trishna," the plan was to shoot the drama "The Promised Land," which focused on Jewish freedom fighters attacking British troops in pre-war Palestine, a decade before the creation of the state of Israel. The film seemed all ready to go, but as Eaton explains, films about Israel & Palestine are not the easiest to get financed. He told us, "We had a really great cast (which included Colin Firth, Jim Sturgess and Matthew MacFayden), but it's a really sensitive political area, it's about the politics between Jews and Arabs and the British, in pre-war what-was-then Palestine, it just got to the point where it seemed too controversial for people at that time. So we kind of put it to one side. but it's definitely something we'd like to revisit when we have the chance."
We asked if the presence of Firth, now firmly an A-lister after his Oscar-winning success in "The King's Speech," might help to get the film going again, but Eaton suggested it would still be tricky. "I don't think it quite gets us over the line," he said, "although Colin's definitely in a different orbit to where he was then. Because it's period, it's not like 'In This World' or 'Road to Guantanamo' -- you need costumes, and make up, and vehicles and design. It's a really great script, so we just have to take our time."
More hopeful is the promise of a follow-up to "The Trip," the comedy that involved Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as themselves, touring the restaurants of the U.K's Lake District. Eaton previously announced that an Italy-set sequel might be in the works back in the summer, and reiterated that to us, saying, "We're developing with the BBC the idea of taking the two of them to Italy. Sometime between now and Christmas, we're hoping that Michael will get a chance to do a recce... that's Michael's favorite bit!"
It's not quite a done deal yet, with Eaton saying that they'll only make the film if it feels right. "We'd really like to do it again, but we don't want to do it unless it's adding something to it." But there's also the possibility of an extension of the series internationally, with other stars replacing Coogan and Brydon. The producer said, "We also thought it would be fun to try and do another version of it in America, or somewhere else, maybe with different people to Steve & Rob." So what other comic pairings could we end up seeing eating and arguing their way around top restaurants? Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson? Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy? Rob Schneider and David Spade? It's early days yet, but it's certainly an intriguing proposition.
Speaking of comic stars, Winterbottom is attached to direct Jack Black in the comedy "Bailout," and Eaton says the film is dependent on a couple of factors. "That's a juggling act between Jack Black's schedule," he said, "and whether we can do enough pre-sales to make it happen. It's a really great script. It feels like a natural successor to "School of Rock," it feels like the character from that has become middle-aged and fucked up his life."
But it's not necessarily next. Winterbottom's also planning another project with Coogan, "Paul Raymond's Wonderful World Of Erotica," a biopic of the Soho porn magnate and property baron, also announced earlier in the year. Eaton said, "Matt Greenhalgh, who did 'Nowhere Boy,' is writing the script. Fingers crossed, we'd like to do that next year... but it depends on 'Bailout.' We'd like to get the script to the right point. People seem to really respond to the idea of Coogan playing that character. He's a combination of Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner, but he's our own, this English guy. And he only died a couple of years ago, so his legend is sufficiently fresh. Soho in that period, the 60s and 70s, must have been an amazing place to be."
Indeed, the research process has already turned up some gold: "There's some great stuff we found, Raymond occasionally tried to make films, which he was in, they're so wonderfully tacky, that great sort of 70s Kodak color, and the acting is terrible, it's like soft porn. I think it's something that Steve will do brilliantly." And 2013 should see another Winterbottom film, as his long-in-the-works prison drama "Seven Days," with John Simm and Shirley Henderson, is almost done, with Eaton updating, "We've got another year to go, we've got one more bit of filming to do."
Finally, one film that Eaton is involved in without Winterbottom, is "Good Vibrations," a biopic of Terri Hooley, a key figure in the Northern Irish punk scene of the 1970s. Eaton compares it to one of his best known films saying, "It's very similar to '24 Hour Party People,' but in Belfast, Terri Hooley was sort of the Tony Wilson of Belfast. And from what I've seen so far, it could be fantastic."
For the Derry-born Eaton, it's a film close to his heart. "It was a real passion project, because it's one of the only films made in Belfast where almost everybody involved was from there. It's a record shop I used to hang out in when I was 17, 18 years old. I went to the wrap party, and it's the most emotional wrap party I've ever been to in my life, because you've got the younger generation, who weren't even born, playing The Undertones in the film, and then the real Undertones, who are still alive... I really think it could be a "The Commitments," it could make people feel fantastic."
The movie was struck a bit of a blow not long before filming, when a number of bigger names, including Steve Coogan and Michael Fassbender, had to drop out thanks to scheduling conflicts. Eaton explains that, in the latter case, it was unavoidable, thanks to Fassbender's sudden career explosion. "It wasn't Michael's fault in the end, it happened to coincide with the busiest time in his career. It wasn't even so much the shooting, but he had to go and do all the promotion for 'Shame,' so we couldn't be angry about it. He put his name to it for long enough that we were able to get in certain doors. But Richard Dormer, who plays the lead character, has to be one of the best undiscovered actors of his generation. Jodie Whittaker did it, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran."
All in all, it's a very exciting slate, and one that we can't wait to see come together. In the more immediate future, "360" will be released by Magnolia Pictures in the first few months of 2012.