After making four films together, most recently Fox 2000’s “Ravenous,” actor Robert Carlyle and helmer Antonia Bird are planning to take their creative collaboration to a new level by co-directing the Scottish biopic “Benny Lynch.”
The film is one of several projects on the debut slate of 4Way Pictures, a new production venture that Carlyle and Bird have set up in partnership with Mark Cousins, former director of the Edinburgh Film Fest.
The trio have launched 4Way under a first-look deal with BBC Films, and expect to ink a second-look deal with an international distrib soon.
Carlyle was already developing “Benny Lynch” with BBC Scotland through his personal shingle Raindog, which is now being rolled into 4Way.
The pic, scripted by Frank Deasey, is based on the true story of a Scottish boxer in the 1930s who hit the skids after becoming world champion. Carlyle will star as the title character and produce with Chris Neil.
The first 4Way project to start production looks likely to be “Rebekka,” a $1.6 million semi-documentary that Bird will direct. It’s the true story of a young American woman who went from being a Playboy centerfold to an AIDS activist after she was diagnosed HIV positive.
Bird plans to mix dramatization with doc footage of the actual woman and the actress playing her. The film, which will be funded in part or in full by the BBC, will shoot later this summer in New York, Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert. Cousins will produce.
Other 4Way features in development include “On the Town in Glasgow” (working title), a music-driven project to star Carlyle as one of four men out on a stag night in Scotland’s biggest city. Bird is unlikely to direct this $6 million pic, which is currently at treatment stage.
Bird will, however, direct “Ninety Days,” an autobiographical screenplay by first-timer Marcella Forster. It’s the story of a young British single mother who moves to San Diego when she falls for an American man, only to stumble into poverty and homelessness.
The 4Way trio are discussing another music-led project with Blur frontman Damon Albarn, who contributed to the “Ravenous” soundtrack and starred with Carlyle in Bird’s “Face.” Details of the project are sketchy, except that the pic will grow out of the music Albarn writes for it.
“Once Upon a Time in Brick Lane” is another music-heavy project, following the fortunes of six young people from the launch of the U.K.’s hugely influential Rock Against Racism movement in the late ’70s to the dawn of the year 2000.
Brit rock star Paul Weller, who was a leading light in RAR, may get involved as part of a wider collaboration with 4Way that he is currently discussing with Carlyle.
Bird, Carlyle and Cousins intend their new production venture to range from “the highly commercial to the highly experimental, with some interesting stuff in the middle,” per Cousins. They also see it as an opportunity to interchange creative roles, and to explore filmmaking formats beyond 35mm.
As their debut slate indicates, the company will not confine itself to conventional feature films but will also cross over into documentaries and music as well as TV drama.
Bird enthuses about “the whole new media explosion,” specifically her experience putting together the DVD version of “Ravenous.” She intends to shoot “Rebekka” with multiple digital cameras.