By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 16, 2011 at 3:45AM
Plus 'The Duchess' Helmer Saul Dibb Tackling Undercover Cop Drama 'Codenames Only,' & More From U.K. Production Company Independent
Since 2009's underwhelming "Public Enemies," a fascinating example in style that simply doesn't work as a movie, Michael Mann has been beavering away on "Luck," a HBO collaboration with "Deadwood" writer David Milch, with a cast including Dustin Hoffman, Michael Gambon, Ian Hart, John Ortiz, Dennis Farina and many more. But he's remained undecided as to his next big-screen project, with a number of possible films percolating.
There's the Hemingway adaptation "For Whom The Bell Tolls," the wartime photographer biopic "Capa," possibly with Andrew Garfield and Gemma Arterton, another period gangster tale, "Big Tuna," from "Up in the Air" writer Sheldon Turner, and, most recently, the contemporary prospecting adventure "Gold," from writer Paul Haggis, but none has yet come to the front of the pack. One of the more intriguing, out-of-the-box possibilities has been "Agincourt," an adaptation of the Bernard Cornwell novel that retells the famous battle between Henry V's English army, and the French, which Mann was developing with "Elizabeth" and "The Tudors" writer Michael Hirst. And it looks like that project just got something of a boost.
Screen Daily reports that Independent, the production company run by Luc Roeg, the son of filmmaking great Nic Roeg, is in Cannes unveiling its new slate, fresh off the success of Lynne Ramsay's "We Need To Talk About Kevin," and the announcement was headed up with confirmation that Mann will indeed direct "Agincourt" for the company. "RKO 281" director Benjamin Ross is currently re-writing the script, with Roeg saying the project now has momentum, although the company are waiting for the film to be fully developed before they go out to studios for full financing -- no start date is yet planned, but the shoot will likely take place in France and the United Kingdom. It's not the only pending take on the character, it should be noted; "Thor" star Tom Hiddleston just signed to play Henry V in a TV adaptation of Shakespeare's play, directed by Richard Eyre ("Notes on a Scandal") and produced by Sam Mendes.
We like the idea of Mann going even further back in time than "Public Enemies," considering our love for his "Last of the Mohicans," and the long development process hopefully means that the script won't be as rushed as the one for the Johnny Depp vehicle. Having said that, while this certainly seems to be in the lead as Mann's next project, it's entirely possible that he could switch to something else, or make another film first -- we're sure more will emerge in the coming months.
Independent have a fairly impressive slate even without the Mann film. They're currently finishing up "Boxing Day," another Tolstoy adaptation from "ivansXTC" director Bernard Rose and star Danny Huston, which will likely do the festival rounds in the fall, while a shoot is being planned for a British thriller, "Clean Face," which pairs "Harry Brown" writer Gary Young, and "Shank" director Mo Ali. "Public Enemies" writer Ronan Bennett is also working with the company, on an adaptation of Dean King's non-fiction book "Skeletons on the Zahara," about a shipwrecked American crew who are sold into slavery, and have to trek across the Sahara to escape -- that film's currently seeking a director and financing.
Finally, director Saul Dibb, who graduated to the big leagues with the Keira Knightley vehicle "The Duchess," is now attached to direct "Codenames Only," a character-driven thriller about police officers undercover on a council estate, with a script by "Red Riding" scribe Tony Grisoni, although that film won't shoot until the start of 2013, so it's a way off yet. Fingers crossed, the company's impressive line-up is another sign that the British film industry hasn't been crippled by the recent overhaul of government financing.