EXCLUSIVE: The Grand Budapest Hotel star Ralph Fiennes is set to flex his comedy muscles again, this time as composer George Frederick Handel in period comedy-drama Hallelujah!, I can reveal. Veep helmer and The Thick Of It star Chris Addison will direct the movie which comes from Rush producer Andrew Eaton and Yardie producer Gina Carter.
Jon Croker (The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death) and Nicholas Adams’ (The Boys And Girls From Country Clare) script, set to shoot in early 2019, is a feel-good comedy-drama described to me as being in the vein of Shakespeare In Love. It tells the story of Handel’s canonical piece of music Messiah and its chaotic, spectacular first performance.
The movie is the first out of the gate for long-time Revolution Films producer Eaton at new production company Turbine Studios, where he is a partner with fellow producers Tracey Scoffield (The Frankenstein Chronicles), David Tanner (Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight) and Justin Thompson. Carter’s Sprout Pictures, which she runs with writer and presenter Stephen Fry, recently produced Sky series In The Long Run with Idris Elba.
Altitude Film Entertainment has picked up international sales rights to the movie and will begin shopping it in Cannes. It was developed with BBC Films and has BFI backing. Altitude Film Distribution will distribute the film in the UK and Ireland and UK outfit Lorton Entertainment is on board to co-finance and co-distribute locally with Altitude.
Set in a riotous 18th Century London and Dublin, the farce follows the drink-sodden and cantankerous Handel who is a forgotten man to all but his whip-smart valet. Worse still, he has lost his inspiration to compose. However, when he overhears the singing of famous actress Susannah Cibber, the composer is moved to write once again and King George II tasks him to create an oratorio to celebrate the new Irish Viceroy in Dublin. Yet, when Handel approaches Susannah with the news, he is shocked to learn that not only does she have a fear of singing in public, she’s also on the run from her vengeful husband. The motley crew travels to Dublin only to realize that London’s gin-soaked alleys are no match for the competing, sectarian politics of Dublin’s choirs, the stupidity of English overlords, and the hypocritical morals of the day. Confronted with these odds, Handel has no choice but to defy his critics and keep going. The shown must go on.
Eaton told us, “Hallelujah! has been a passion project for me and Gina for a few years. We are thrilled to have Ralph Fiennes and Chris Addison on board and to be partnering with our friends at Altitude on a film we all feel has enormous international and commercial potential.”
Schindler’s List and The Constant Gardener star Fiennes is in post-production on his Rudolf Nureyev biopic The White Crow and is part of the voice cast alongside Robert Downey Jr in Universal’s The Voyage Of Dr Dolittle. Addison recently directed MGM comedy movie The Hustle, a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. That movie is in post.