EXCLUSIVE: Studiocanal and Parkes+MacDonald Productions partners Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have teamed on four feature films that cover disparate subjects but have one connection: They all are European-set stories that have the potential to play to global audiences. Parkes and MacDonald will produce, and their production president Evan Hayes will be exec producer. Three of the films will involve ImageNation Abu Dhabi, with whom Parkes+MacDonald has a long relationship; the three companies teamed on the documentary He Named Me Malala. All four films are in advanced stages of development, on a fast track. Here they are:
The Great Pretender, scripted by The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel scribe Ol Parker, focuses on the life of Roy Tempest, who was once London’s most successful concert promoter and booking agent. A lover of soul music, Tempest organized UK tours for some of the biggest U.S. acts, from the Temptations to the Ronettes, to play in sold-out venues across London. It was particularly lucrative for Tempest, because the acts were fakes. With help from mafia connections, Tempest trawled second-rate clubs around New York and found talented impersonators among postal workers, lingerie saleswomen, bus drivers, even an ex-bank robber. They came to London to perform. It was so brazen that one singer appeared twice on the bill, once in disguise. The source material is an autobiography of Tempest, whose penchant for slightly changing the act names on the marquee kept him out of jail when his scam was finally uncovered.
“Beyond vividly capturing London in the early ’60s, Roy’s book is ultimately about the power of the music that transformed the world — whether it was performed by the real Steven Wonder or Smokey Robinson or the Temptations or just by ordinary guys who, thanks to Roy’s audacity, were given a glimpse of stardom that would change their lives forever,” said MacDonald. IPG’s Joel Gotler, who repped the unpublished manuscript, will be exec producer.
Also part of the deal is Hindenburg, a look at one of the worst aviation disasters in history. Gary Spinelli, who scripted another aviation pic in the upcoming Tom Cruise-starrer American Made for Universal, is writing the latest draft. Jacob Held wrote the first draft. Madhouse Entertainment’s Adam Kolbrenner is exec producer. The film focuses on the chief engineer of the Zeppelin company, who attempts to save his Jewish lover from the dangers of pre-war Berlin, by booking passage for both of them to America on the great airship, only to discover they and every other passenger is in mortal danger because of a saboteur.
Fallen Idol is a new version of the 1948 Carol Reed/Graham Greene film. An ex-US Special Forces officer gets hired to head security for a wealthy English family living in Hong Kong. He develops a paternal relationship with the son, and that becomes potentially deadly when the youth discovers his true past. David Farr wrote the first draft and it’s now being rewritten by Patrick Radden Keefe. A contributor for The New Yorker and author of The Hunt For El Chapo and The Snakehead, Keefe’s screen work includes The Son, which has Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal attached.
The final project in the deal is Coldheart, which has a script by David Farr, whose credits include the BBC miniseries The Night Manager and the Joe Wright-directed Hanna. Based on an original story hatched by Farr and Parkes, the contemporary thriller focuses on a disgraced intelligence officer, brought back into active duty to help free a young American political activist captured in Russia. He uncovers a trail of deception that leads to the top of the CIA and puts the intelligence officer’s life in danger.
Studiocanal exec veep of International Productions and Acquisitions Ron Halpern called Parkes & MacDonald “extraordinary producers who bring together great director and writer talent. Their focus on storytelling and quality filmmaking for a global audience made them producers with whom Studiocanal very much wanted to work. As we began to discuss different projects we quickly found four films which represent exactly the films Studiocanal would like to make.”
Said Parkes: “For years, Studiocanal has had unmatched creative and commercial success in bringing together extraordinary talent and projects from around the globe and presenting this work to a large international audience. They are true lovers of cinema and a pleasure to work with; we’re thrilled to be building this partnership with them.”