EXCLUSIVE: A potential TV spin-off of British director Jonathan Glazer’s cult sci-fi feature Under The Skin has sparked a bidding war between the film’s original financier Silver Reel and studio A24.
Based on a novel by Michel Faber, Under The Skin was director Glazer’s first film in a decade when it landed in 2013, winning awards and critical acclaim for its story about an alien, played by Scarlett Johansson, who preys on men in Scotland. Now, seven years after its first release, a protracted discussion about a television series, and the demise of the company that produced the movie, has culminated in Silver Reel and A24 going toe-to-toe for the TV rights.
Under The Skin was made by Seventh Kingdom Productions, which counts Glazer and producer James Wilson among its directors. Silver Reel was involved in appointing administrators last year to carve up its assets — the equivalent of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. The TV rights are now essentially being sold to the highest bidder.
Silver Reel — which financed Under The Skin alongside Film4, the BFI and Creative Scotland — has been sweet on the idea of making a TV spin-off for years, and has repeatedly attempted to get the project off the ground. A24, which is working with Glazer and Wilson on their next film, only entered the fray late last year. A decision on where the rights will end up is expected in the coming weeks.
Glazer and Wilson were first approached in June 2017 by a U.S. agent about adapting Under The Skin for television, and they discussed the proposal with Silver Reel CEO Claudia Bluemhuber, according to people familiar with the matter.
Glazer and Wilson were interested in the idea of making a show, but wanted to prioritize their film commitments. They were open to exploring collaborations with other showrunners, potentially acting as curators on a series, sources said. Bluemhuber, on the other hand, was animated about the project and keen for Silver Reel to take the rights and produce the show, collaborating with the filmmakers. But Glazer and Wilson were reluctant about this idea.
The two sides were unable to hit upon an agreement after sporadic talks that lasted nearly two years. Glazer and Wilson were intrigued by the TV show but it was not considered a front-burner project. Equally, they refused to transfer the rights to Silver Reel. Then in April 2019, Silver Reel took an unusual step in the world of film financing. The Swiss company called in its Under The Skin debt and facilitated the appointment of administrators to wind up Seventh Kingdom’s affairs. Insolvency company Cork Gully is overseeing the administration process, including the bidding battle between Silver Reel and A24 for the TV rights.
Deadline understands that Wilson, Glazer, and Seventh Kingdom’s other directors Gillian Berrie and Nick Wechsler, have signed a one-page document saying that the TV rights have not already been sold or promised to another party, meaning whoever secures them under the administration process will be free to take them to market. Glazer and Wilson’s creative involvement in any future TV series will need to be determined once the rights have a home.
People close to the matter have stressed that the debate over Under The Skin’s TV rights has not been acrimonious and there is hope that all parties will emerge from the process with relationships intact. Silver Reel is not, however, involved in Wilson and Glazer’s next project — a Holocaust drama, which Deadline revealed will shoot this year in Poland. A24, Film4 and Access Entertainment are collaborating on the untitled venture.
Administrator Cork Gully’s reports show that Under The Skin had a budget of £8M ($10.4M) and took £5.2M at the box office following its premiere in 2013. The documents break down how much each financier is “owed” by Seventh Kingdom in respect of the money they advanced to the company to allow it to make the film. Silver Reel is owed £5.3M including interest, according to Cork Gully, while the BFI and Film4 are owed £1.95M and £1.1M respectively. Creative Scotland is out of pocket to the tune of £300,000.
It is, of course, not uncommon for film financiers to lose money on their investments, and companies like Film4 offset their losses with hits like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which grossed more than $100M at the box office. Meanwhile, Under The Skin has gone on to become a cult hit. It received an 85% Rotten Tomatoes score and secured five-star reviews from the likes of The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, the latter of which called it a “masterpiece.”
Silver Reel specializes in film financing and since launching in 2009, it has been involved in more than 30 productions, including Golden Globe-winner The Wife and last year’s Ride Like a Girl. A24 films include Netflix’s Uncut Gems and Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse, while its TV projects feature HBO’s Euphoria.
Seventh Kingdom, Silver Reel, A24, Film4, the BFI and Cork Gully all declined to comment. Creative Scotland did not respond to requests for comment.
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