BBC Films Reteaming With 'Veep' Creator in New Slate

Armando Iannucci Headshot - P 2012
Getty Images

Armando Iannucci Headshot - P 2012

The U.K. broadcaster's feature filmmaking arm is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Veep creator Armando Iannucci is reteaming with BBC Films on an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel David Copperfield.

The new project was announced Wednesday as part of a new BBC Films slate, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the BBC's moviemaking unit.

David Copperfield sees Iannucci return to BBC Films for the first time since his directorial debut, 2009's Oscar and BAFTA-nominated comedy Veep, and is being developed alongside his longtime collaborator (and Veep and In the Loop co-writer) Simon Blackwell.

But BBC Films head Christine Langan doesn't think that the new project will see the comic steer himself in an altogether far more serious direction.

"[Iannucci] is such a Dickens connoisseur, he's very passionate about the writing," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I never think of Dickens about being just one thing, and that's very much the quality Armando shares. There's a particular view of the world that is both humane and comic, it's tragicomic at times. I wouldn't bank on this being too deadly serious, no way."

Other films include the first feature for Ritesh Batra since his global Hindi-language box-office smash, The Lunchbox. Batra will direct Nick Payne's adaptation of Julian Barnes' award-winning novel The Sense of an Ending. Payne latest play Constellations — starring Jake Gyllenhaal — recently hit Broadway.

Another new announcement in the slate is Rafe Spall joining the cast of Swallows and Amazons, a retelling of the famed children's book by British author Arthur Ransome that was first published in 1930. Langan says the adaptation will bring the story, about the summer adventures of a group of children in the English countryside, to a modern audience.

"It's kinetic and energetic and exciting, but we haven't transposed it in any weird or wonderful way. It's very much the Ransome classic that we want to bring to a bigger, broader audience," she said. "We want to honor the book without being dusty and archaic."

Spall, currently in U.K. cinemas with the BBC Films drama X+Y, has "something very contemporary about him," Langan added.

Already announced, BBC Films are working The Theory of Everything director James Marsh' unnamed Colin Firth-starring project about Donald Crowhurst, a British businessman and amateur sailor whose attempt to win a round-the-world yacht race ended in disaster in 1968.

"The story is just so deeply compelling in and of itself that we very much wanted to explore it," said Langan. James came on board not all that long ago, and that’s lovely for us because we’ve worked with him before, we love working with him. The Theory of Everything just galvanized his reputation."

Other titles in the slate include the documentaries Grace Jones - The Musical of My Life by Sophie Fiennes and Tiger Son, about the youngest member of the Royal Ballet, directed by Ross MacGibbon and choreographed by David LaChapelle.

Langan said that the new slate had been achieved despite the recent cut in BBC FIlms' budget by £1 million ($1.5 million).

"It's now somewhere between £10 million and a little bit more than £10 million. And that’s everything we do. It’s tough," she said. "It’s modest funding, but you can see the reach and impact, both commercially and culturally that can be achieved."