By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 4, 2010 at 12:55PM
Update: Felicity Jones has also joined the cast.
Almost a full year ago, fresh off its high placing on the Brit List, an impressive cast was announced for the twee British fable "This Beautiful Fantastic." Set to be directed by Terry Loane ("Mickybo & Me"), the film would have starred hot property Carey Mulligan in the lead, with Tom Wilkinson, Christopher Ecclestone, Mackenzie Crook and Joanna Lumley also among the cast. Filming was set to begin in March, but, obviously, it didn't, and there hasn't even been a whisper from the film since.
The good news is that the film's still alive, according to Deadline -- there's a new director, in the shape of Joel Hopkins, who helmed the Dustin Hoffman/Emma Thompson romance "Last Chance Harvey," as well as the underrated indie "Jump Tomorrow," which starred TV On The Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe. There's also a few new cast members -- Rhys Ifans, who'll presumably fit in the film around his duties as The Lizard in Marc Webb's "Spider-Man" reboot, the ever-busy Bill Nighy, who seems to be signed to more projects than Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp combined, and rising star, and Mr. Keira Knightley, Rupert Friend, who was very good indeed alongside Emily Blunt in "The Young Victoria."
What's unclear is whether any of the original cast members are still attached. Frankly, we imagine that they've all moved on at this stage, particularly Mulligan, who if anything is even more in demand now than she was a year ago. There's no word on a start date, and we imagine it's partly contingent on funding picked up at the American Film Market this week -- so if you want to see it hit screens, you know where to pay for it...
We took a look at the script when the project was originally announced, and wrote that "The best touchstone would definitely be "Amelie," but "This Beautiful Fantastic" is its own rather charming beast, staying just the right side of quirkiness, and provides great roles for all the cast involved, particularly Wilkinson, who could be an awards contender if the movie comes off right... The risk with material like this is that it could turn out more "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" than "The Fisher King," but so long as the execution doesn't fall in love with its own whimsy, and stays relatively grounded, this could be a breath of fresh air."
The plot involves the relationship between Bella, an orphan with a wondrous, chaotic imagination and her neighbor Alfie, a grumpy old man, with great pride in his garden. Alfie's cook Vernon, tired of his employer's unpleasant behavior, goes to work for Bella, who has to tidy her own garden or face eviction from her flat. Bella strikes an uneasy alliance with Alfie, who promises to help her with her horticultural skills, if Vernon agrees to continue to provide his meals. By the end, they've profoundly changed each other's lives. We imagine that Nighy would replace Wilkinson as Alfie, Ifans would replace Ecclestone as Vernon, and Friend would replace Crook as love interest Billy. We're glad the film is moving forward: even if none of the original actors are involved, they couldn't have found three more promising ones to replace them with.