EXCLUSIVE: Ian McKellen (The Good Liar), Gemma Arterton (Summerland) and Mark Strong (1917) will lead the cast of The Critic, a period thriller based on Anthony Quinn’s classic novel Curtain Call. Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread), BAFTA nominee Romola Garai (Suffragette), Ben Barnes (Westworld) and Alfred Enoch (Foundation) will also star.
In the film set in 1934 London, McKellen plays Jimmy Erskine, the most feared drama critic in town—with Arterton as Nina Land, the actress determined to win his favor. When Jimmy finds himself in the crosshairs of his newspaper’s new owner, David Brooke (Strong), Nina becomes entangled in a dangerous web of blackmail, deceit and murder.
Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie) is directing from a script by Oscar nominee Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal), with production underway in and around London. The film is being fully financed and produced by London-based BKStudios, with owner Bill Kenwright producing and CEO David Gilbery exec producing for the company. Jolyon Symonds originated and developed the project and is producing alongside Kenwright. His company Fearless Minds is co-producing with Tucker’s Seven Stories.
Additional EPs include Mark Gordon, Tom Butterfield and Harry White for Culmination Productions; Naomi George for BKStudios; Marber; and Tucker. BKStudios holds worldwide distribution rights, with international sales being represented by Culmination. CAA Media Finance and UTA Independent Film Group are co-repping domestic rights to the film.
McKellen is a two-time Oscar nominee who recently starred opposite Helen Mirren in Bill Condon’s drama The Good Liar and will next be seen in Ken McMullen’s drama Hamlet Within.
Arterton is a BAFTA Award nominee who has recently been seen in such films as The King’s Man and Summerland, along with series like Black Narcissus. She’ll also soon be seen in the thriller Freegard with Sarah Goldberg, the series Funny Woman based on Nick Hornsby’s novel and the Disney+ show Culprits among other projects.
Strong is a BAFTA Award nominee known for turns in projects ranging from 1917 to Shazam!, the Kingsman films and Kick-Ass who leads the Sky One series Temple. Other upcoming films in which he’ll appear include Todd Field’s TÁR with Cate Blanchett, Lorcan Finnegan’s thriller Nocebo with Eva Green, Netflix’s Murder Mastery 2, the action-thriller Borderland with Aml Ameen and Felicity Jones, and Doug Liman’s drama Everest.
Tucker has helmed such films as Leap Year, When Did You Last See Your Father?, Shopgirl, Hilary and Jackie and Saint-Ex, along with episodes of such series as Rogue and Indian Summers.
In addition to the Oscar-nominated Notes on a Scandal, Marber has penned films including Asylum and Closer. Additional credits include the series Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Coogan’s Run and The Day Today.
Other upcoming projects from BKStudios include the recently-wrapped thriller The Kill Room starring Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, The Shepherd starring John Travolta, and a live stage capture of their hit West End musical Heathers based on the 1989 cult hit film.
McKellen and Arterton are represented by CAA and Independent Talent Group in the UK; Strong by the UK’s Markham, Froggatt and Irwin and WME; Manville and Garai by the UK’s Artist Rights Group; Barnes by WME, Luber Roklin Entertainment and the UK’s Creative Artists Management; Enoch by ICM Partners, Independent Talent Group and Lasher Group; Tucker by UTA; and Marber by Dalzell and Beresford and Judy Daish Associates in the UK, WME and LBI Entertainment.