EXCLUSIVE: In one of the hottest development titles coming out of the UK film biz, 45 Years director Andrew Haigh has signed on to direct the Alexander McQueen biopic for producer Damian Jones and Pathe. Red hot playwright Chris Urch, whose latest play The Rolling Stone has just debuted in London to ecstatic reviews, is writing the project. Jones had previously optioned Andrew Wilson’s McQueen biography Blood Beneath The Skin, but the film will not be exclusively based on the book; rather it will be part of the research materials available to Urch.
Fashion designer McQueen’s spectacular rise and tragic fall would seem to be fertile material for cinematic adaptation. The working class son of a taxi driver, McQueen rose rapidly from an apprentice on London’s prestigious Savile Row. His clients eventually included Prince Charles and Mikhael Gorbachev, as he developed a reputation for his immaculate tailoring skills. He would go on to design the wardrobe for David Bowie‘s 1996-1997 tours, including the Union Jack coat worn by Bowie on the Earthling album cover. As he developed another reputation as the fashion world’s enfant terrible, he would go on to become head designer at Givenchy before launching his own self-monikered label. He was famous for his unconventional, highly stylised and theatrical fashion shows. Openly gay, McQueen’s growing fame and fortune also witnessed an increase in drug dependence as well as a slew of failed relationships. He committed suicide in 2010, nine days after his mother Joyce had died of cancer.
This is shaping up to be a typically classy project for Pathe and their UK managing director Cameron McCracken. The company has previously developed, financed and sold the likes of Matthew Warchus’ Pride, Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette and also has Stephen Frears’ keenly -anticipated Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. The aim is to get the project into production by the end of the year. That will be contingent on whether Haigh directs his cherished Lean On Pete adaptation first. That project is an adaptation of Willy Valutin’s heart-breaking book about a 15-year-old boy who forms an unlikely friendship with a racehorse against the backdrop of fractured contemporary Americana.
Haigh’s 45 Years, about an aging couple — played by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay — and their faltering relationship has emerged as an awards season dark horse with a best actress nomination for Rampling at the Academy Awards and a best British film nomination at the BAFTAs. The film also took home the best British/Irish film of the year at the London Film Critics’ Circle Awards along with Best Actor and Actress of the Year for Courtenay and Rampling.
Damian Jones is having a banner year, with the feature adaptation of classic Brit TV series Dad’s Army coming out on February 5 through Universal. Another big screen adaptation of an iconic TV series — Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie –– comes out July 1 via Fox Searchlight. Jones also produced the Maggie Smith-starrer The Lady in the Van, which Sony Pictures Classics released. Up next are exec producer roles on Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood, the third part in the Kidulthood-Adulthood urban drama, Jenny Lu’s The Receptionist and Roger Spottiswoode’s A Street Cat Named Bob. Jones is also producing Goodbye Christopher Robin with Steve Christian and Simon Curtis set to direct.
Haigh is repped by The Agency, Anonymous Content and CAA. Urch is repped by United Agents and Grandview.