Fairbanks Productions Fast Tracks Production of $81 Million 'Ivanhoe' (EXCLUSIVE)

The U.K. Production banner puts the $120 million "Scarlet Pimpernel" on the back burner.


LONDON -- Fairbanks Productions, the U.K.'s newest and big-talking filmmaking banner on the block, has switched out one swashbuckler for another, replacing plans for a £75 million ($120 million) movie based on Baroness Orczy's classic The Scarlet Pimpernel with the fast-track development of a £50 million ($81 million) updated version of Ivanhoe, based on Walter Scott's classic adventure.

The plans for Pimpernel have been temporarily shelved after it emerged that movie adaptation rights to the classic here in the U.K. fell foul of a change in copyright laws when the European Union extended them from 50 years to 70 years. It means the rights are no longer in the public domain in the U.K.

But Fairbanks Productions executive producer James Black says the company plans to wait for five years and revisit Pimpernel when all rights return to the public domain.

Set up by Dominick Fairbanks, the great grandson and grandson of Hollywood legends Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the company aims to bring family adventure movies to international audiences in the coming years. While Pimpernel proves elusive due to rights issues, Ivanhoe is in the public domain and Fairbanks Productions is fast-tracking it.

L.A.-based upcoming Brit actor Neil Jackson, whose big screen credits include a turn in Quantum of Solace, and was most recently seen on U.K. television in ITV's lavish update of Upstairs, Downstairs, is writing a draft and will produce through his production banner Paper Dragon Productions.

Black told The Hollywood Reporter that the production would shoot at Fairbanks Productions new base, Twickenham Studios in London.

Ivanhoe last appeared on the big screen in a 1952 starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor and has been adapted many times for the small screen with names including Roger Moore and Anthony Andrews all taking on the role of the knight in shining armor. Black hopes Ivanhoe will roll for the movie cameras late next year.

Fairbanks Productions has also struck a 10-year exclusive co-production, sales and finance partnership with L.A.-based Arclight, led by veteran sales and financier Gary Hamilton and is gearing up for its first major pre-sale market appearing at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin.

It is currently in pre-production with Kill The Dead, an original script from award-winning short filmmaker Shaune Harrison, its first fully financed picture.

Harrison's script, which he will direct, is set in the near future and details a reality TV show where contestants kill people recently brought back to life for that purpose.

With a budget of a moderate £5 million ($8 million), Kill the Dead will set out the company's stall for supporting fresh talent and storytelling.

Black told THR it will begin shooting at Twickenham Studios in June this year and the production is partnering with VFX house The Senate "to make the £5 million ($8 million) budgeted film look a whole lot more."

Fairbanks Productions has also hired veteran producer Nick Gillott as its head of production.

Also on its development slate is an adaptation of Robert Dick's true-life story, The Bag Man, detailing Dick's adventures as one of the most notorious Mafia bagmen of the 1960s. It is set up as a co-production with Arclight and LA-based MTY Productions.

Douglas Fairbanks starred in myriad Hollywood productions and was one of the founders of United Artists in 1919. His son, Fairbanks Jr., a decorated soldier on both sides of the Atlantic after serving in PT boats and gunboats in World War II followed in his father's footsteps carving out a successful career in movies also.