Fox Searchlight Makes North American Rights Deal For ‘The Personal History Of David Copperfield’ Before Toronto & London Fest Bows

Fox Searchlight

EXCLUSIVE: Fox Searchlight has preemptively acquired North American rights to The Personal History of David Copperfield, the Armando Iannucci-directed drama that makes its world premiere next month at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 5, to be followed by its European premiere as the opening film of the BFI London Film Festival on October 2.

Iannucci produced with Kevin Loader.

It is Iannucci’s third outing as director, after he helmed In The Loop and The Death of Stalin, and also created the celebrated HBO series Veep.  Iannucci adapted the film with frequent collaborator Simon Blackwell from the Charles Dickens classic novel. Dev Patel plays Copperfield, and also starring are Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Paul Whitehouse, Aneurin Barnard, Daisy May Cooper, Morfydd Clark, Benedict Wong, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Welsh and Rosalind Eleazar.

FSL plans to release the film in 2020. Deal gives Searchlight another strong title as the distributor celebrates its 25th anniversary. It is the fourth FSL film that will premiere in Toronto. The others are the Taika Waititi-directed Jojo Rabbit, the Terrence Malick-directed A Hidden Life, and the Noah Hawley-directed Lucy In The Sky. FSL has coming next year the Benh Zeitlin-directed Wendy, the Scott Cooper-directed Antlers, and the Nat Faxon and Jim Rash-directed Downhill. 

The Personal History of David Copperfield follows a good-hearted young man whose rogue spirit carries him through a colorful life of poverty and opulence. A burgeoning young writer’s life is followed from orphaned infancy to adulthood as he befriends a collection of eccentric characters on a journey of love, acceptance and self-discovery in Victorian England.

“Armando Iannucci is a wonderfully original filmmaker and expert storyteller; he brings his irreverent and imaginative take to this iconic and beloved story,” said Fox Searchlight Chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula in a statement to Deadline confirming the deal. “As for Dev, he has consistently impressed since his unforgettable breakout roles in Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. With his warmth, humor and diversity of roles throughout his career, it is particularly rewarding to see him lead such a spectacular ensemble in this film.”

The film reunites Searchlight with Patel, Swinton and producer Kevin Loader. Patel’s FSL collaborations are the Best Picture Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel; Swinton with The Deep End, The Grand Budapest Hotel, A Bigger Splash and Isle of Dogs; and Loader with My Cousin Rachel.

“We are so pleased that Fox Searchlight’s early enthusiasm for this movie has paid off, and we’re excited by their plans to bring it to as wide an audience as possible in North America. We’re all proud of this film, and with Fox Searchlight, we have the right fit: we can’t wait to get started,” said Iannucci and Loader.

The exec producers are Daniel Battsek, Ollie Madden, Simon Blackwell, Ben Browning, Glen Basner, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos. Pic is a coproduction between FilmNation, Film4 and Wishmore Entertainment.

UTA Independent Film Group brokered the deal on behalf of FilmNation and the filmmakers, with FSL Executive Vice President of Acquisitions & Co-Productions Ray Strache.


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