Cannes: Amazon Boards Mike Leigh's Historical Drama 'Peterloo' (Exclusive)

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Mike Leigh

The film, which Film4 has been developing, chronicles the 1819 massacre by British government forces at a peaceful pro-democracy rally, where some 700 working people were injured and 18 killed.

With five films premiering at Cannes, Amazon already has staked its claim this year as the king of the Croisette.

But the streaming giant also is in the process of landing Mike Leigh's next project, a blow to would-be distributors who were eager to vie for the project, which is at the script stage, during the market.

Sources say Amazon is in negotiations to acquire North American rights to Peterloo, a $20 million to $30 million drama that chronicles the 1819 massacre by British government forces at a peaceful pro-democracy rally. Some 700 working people were injured and 18 killed during the incident in Manchester. Film4 has been financing development.

The film, which will shoot in 2017, will reunite the writer-director with his regular team of collaborators from Thin Man Films, headed by producer Georgina Lowe and cinematographer Dick Pope, a recent BAFTA and Oscar nominee for Leigh's Mr. Turner (that film played at Cannes in 2014).

Said Leigh: "Apart from the universal political significance of this historic event, the story has a particular personal resonance for me, as a native of Manchester and Salford."

Peterloo will mark Leigh's fourth period feature, following Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake and Mr. Turner, which nabbed four Oscar nominations. Leigh and Lowe are producing, and Gail Egan is executive producing. Leigh is currently rehearsing The Pirates of Penzance for the English National Opera. The production opens on May 9 at London’s Coliseum Theatre.

With Peterloo, Amazon continues to solidify its reputation as a champion of auteurs. The company’s Cannes lineup includes Woody Allen's Cafe Society for opening night, Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon and Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden in competition, and Jarmusch's Iggy Pop documentary Gimme Danger as a special screening.

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