BBC, HBO team for expansive Poliakoff tale


LONDON -- The BBC and HBO Films have commissioned Talkback Thames to produce two new films by writer-director Stephen Poliakoff that will star Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and David Walliams, it was announced Thursday.

The two films will follow the tradition of recent Poliakoff dramas "Friends and Crocodiles" and "Gideon's Daughter," by being loosely linked through peripheral characters and contexts.

The new projects, "Poliakoff 2006" (working title) and "Capturing Mary," are both set against the backdrop of a beautiful but abandoned palazzo that once provided the setting for glittering society events. They will air on BBC1 and BBC2, respectively.

In the BBC1 project, Gambon plays a reclusive billionaire who inherits a house after his father's death and strikes up a relationship with the teenage son of its cleaner.

In the companion BBC2 piece "Mary," Smith plays a once brilliant writer and critic who remembers the house as a venue for society galas and a hub for the cultural elite but becomes haunted by the memory of a charming yet evil figure from her youth (Walliams).

The films will begin shooting back-to-back at locations in central London and will likely be completed by the end of January.

"It takes a major piece of work and a unique auteur to deliver a project that straddles two BBC channels," BBC fiction controller Jane Tranter said. "Stephen Poliakoff is such a talent and with the depth and breadth of the amazingly gifted cast, I am certain the finished product will be awe-inspiring."

Both films are co-financed and will be licensed and distributed internationally by HBO Films under an agreement brokered by BBC Worldwide.