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One of England’s most famous authors has helped raise the curtain on the country’s biggest film festival.
Charles Dickens’ semi-autobiographical classic The Personal History of David Copperfield — adapted for the big screen by Veep creator Armando Iannucci in his third feature as director — opened the 63rd BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday night in the British capital.
Iannucci attended the red carpet gala at the newly revamped Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square, alongside the film’s lead Dev Patel and fellow stars Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Gwendoline Christie.
Speaking earlier in the day, Iannucci discussed moving away from the sharp-tongued political satire of Veep, The Thick of It and Death of Stalin that helped make his name, saying that it wasn’t a conscious choice.
“Personally, I’m an optimist. I don’t swear or kill people!” he joked. “I just wanted to make something positive, to do a film for all generations.”
Iannucci and producer Kevin Loader also address the casting of thepic, saying that Patel was always the first person they had in mind for the lead role. “And once he’s your only candidate for David Copperfield, certain things flow,” said Loader.
“[Victorian London] was like Manhattan in the 1920s,” said Iannucci. “London then and London now was and is a global city. We wanted to make a city that the audience would recognize and the characters would recognize.”
At the premiere, Patel praised Iannucci’s diverse casting, which also included British talent such as Rosalind Eleazar, Anthony Welsh, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Benedict Wong.
“Massive credit to Armando for being bold and brave,” said the actor. “It takes great auteurs and filmmakers to make these choices, and it sends a message to the industry. Hopefully it won’t be a conversation anymore.”
Running through Oct. 13, the London Film Festival is set to close with Martin Scorsese’s Netflix gangster thriller The Irishman.
The festival’s official competition, which includes films such as Haifaa Al Mansour’s Saudi drama The Perfect Candidate, Rose Glass’ debut Saint Maud and Shia LaBeouf’s semi-autobiographical Honey Boy, has a lineup in which 60 percent of the titles come from female directors or co-directors. Elsewhere, Knives Out, The Aeronauts and Jojo Rabbit are all being given gala screenings, while Michael B. Jordan and Robert De Niro are among the names set to take part in onstage discussions.
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