EXCLUSIVE: It does seem strange. Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, James McAvoy, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, and many other famous UK thesps don’t run their own production companies or have cushy vanity deals at homegrown studios like their U.S. counterparts. “Since Britain doesn’t have a studio system, we don’t have room for vanity shingles. And when they do get set up, they tend to languish because actors then go to Hollywood for the big money,” says London-based United Agents’ Lindy King. That, in a nutshell, is why so many famous UK stars are still only actors for hire.
By contrast, Hollywood studios have lots of vanity deals with actors, though few with British talent behind them. Out of the roughly 150+ total first-look deals which the major Hollywood studios maintain, only 7 are with UK-based production companies and none are run by British stars — Working Title (Universal Picture), Sam Mendes’s Neal Street Productions (Focus Features), Harry Potter-producer Heyday (Warner Bros), Wallace and Gromit-maker Aardman Animations (Sony Pictures Entertainment), Elton John’s Rocket Pictures (Walt Disney Studios), Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free (Twentieth Century Fox), and James Bond factory Danjaq Productions (what’s left of MGM). British producers such as Harbour Pictures (Calendar Girls), DNA Films (Never Let Me Go) and Marv Films (Kick-Ass) once had first-look deals with Disney/Miramax, Fox Searchlight, and Sony respectively but no longer. “A lot of these U.S. vanity deals are expiring or not being renewed. [But] Hollywood [should] look at the UK in terms of it’s being a sweet spot. I mean, we punch above our weight in terms of talent.” Thykier used to run the Marv Films production company with Matthew Vaughn — but their deal foundered after Sony passed on many of their projects like Kick-Ass, The Debt, and Harry Brown. (more…)