Film4 backs 'definitive' Chaplin biopic


Channel 4

Altitude and Showtime have announced today that they are teaming up in representing worldwide rights to Chaplin (working title), the upcoming second feature documentary from Peter Middleton and James Spinney, three-time BAFTA nominees for Notes on Blindness.

Altitude is handling international rights for the film and will be introducing the project to buyers at Cannes. Showtime has North American rights. Altitude has also acquired distribution rights to the film for the UK and Ireland.

Chaplin is being funded by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, Film4 and Showtime. Further support comes from the BFI National Archive’s world-class collections and Chaplin’s World by Grévin. Chaplin’s World is a museum, housed in the historic ‘Manoir de Ban’ in Vevey, Switzerland where Chaplin lived for 25 years. It will act as a shooting location for sequences set during the latter stages of his life.

Chaplin is both the ultimate rags-to-riches story and a revealing, poignant and definitive portrait of cinema’s most iconic figure. Groundbreaking, controversial, outspoken, visionary; for decades he was the most famous man in the world – but who was the real Charlie Chaplin?

BAFTA-nominated filmmakers Middleton and Spinney have gained unprecedented access to Chaplin’s personal and creative archive, including a treasure trove of previously unknown material. Through unseen outtakes and newly unearthed audio recordings, Middleton and Spinney will chart Chaplin’s escape from an impoverished childhood in late-Victorian London to the bright lights of Hollywood at the dawn of cinema. But although his fictional alter ego the ‘Little Tramp’ brings him global fame and total artistic control, turbulent creative anxieties, successive personal scandals and a controversial political voice ultimately lead not only to the demise of his beloved character, but his rejection from America and self-imposed exile.

Ben Limberg (Smaller Biggie) and John Battsek (Passion Pictures) will produce alongside Mike Brett (Archer’s Mark), bringing award-winning experience from previous films including Listen to Me Marlon and Notes on Blindness.

Mike Brett of Archer’s Mark said: “Peter and James are two of the most creatively ambitious filmmakers out there, and they are constantly pushing the boundaries of storytelling for the screen. As an unparalleled innovator and agitator in the field of cinema, Chaplin is a fitting subject for this ground-breaking film.

Peter Middleton and James Spinney said: “We feel incredibly lucky to have been welcomed by the Chaplin family into their archives. To find new perspectives on the life and work of one of the icons of the 20th century, who has left an indelible mark on popular culture, is a huge and exciting challenge. Chaplin described his life as a ‘fairy tale’, and its themes of inequality, power, celebrity and artistry couldn’t be more relevant today.”

Vinnie Malhotra, Snr. Vice President Documentary, Unscripted & Sports at Showtime said: “Chaplin is the most iconic figure in film history, and as a result, is bathed in mythology. With unprecedented historical resources at their disposal and a keen eye for complexity and nuance, Peter and James will bring us the most definitive and rewarding exploration of Chaplin’s remarkable life.”

Will Clarke, Chairman and co-CEO of Altitude said: “Chaplin will be the definitive story of one of the world’s biggest and most powerful stars whose extraordinary life courted adulation and controversy. This will be Chaplin as never seen or heard before revealed through the breathtaking beauty and innovatory techniques that Peter and James bring to their filmmaking.”

Lizzie Francke from the BFI said: “We are delighted to be working with Peter and James and the incredibly talented team behind Notes on Blindness. Their creatively innovative approach to such an iconic figure as Chaplin promises a definitive and vivid portrait, making this pioneering figure of early cinema relevant to 21st century young audiences as much as classic film fans.”

Sam Lavender from Film4 said: "Chaplin was the first ever truly global screen celebrity, and a man with an extraordinary life story. Peter and James captivated us utterly with their vision for this film and their fascination with the man - we couldn't be more thrilled to be a part of this journey."

Ben Limberg of Smaller Biggie said: "Chaplin’s family have been enormously supportive and helpful in the making of this film. And through the wonderful Kate Guyonvarch, who runs the Chaplin estate, we have exclusive access to the entire Chaplin library, an extraordinary collection of materials. Mixed with breathtaking new audio of Chaplin speaking about his life and work it is truly humbling to be making such an exciting film about the father of cinema.”

John Battsek of Passion Pictures said: “As soon as I saw Notes On Blindness I knew I wanted Passion Pictures to be part of producing Peter and James’ next film. When Ben Limberg approached me with the idea of Charlie Chaplin as a subject, I saw the stars aligning. With Showtime, BFI, Film4 and Altitude as partners I couldn’t be more delighted that we are now all embarking on this journey together.”

Chaplin (working title) is a Passion Pictures, Archer’s Mark and Smaller Biggie production, in association with Fee Fie Foe.

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Karina Gechtman, International Marketing Manager

Tel: +44 (0)7729 909 633 / +44 (0)207 478 7612


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The Altitude Film Entertainment group comprises Altitude Film Production led by Will Clarke chairman and joint-CEO with Andy Mayson; Altitude Film Sales with Managing Director Mike Runagall; and Altitude Film Distribution with Head of Distribution Hamish Moseley.

The Altitude sales slate includes Whitney from Academy Award®-winning director Kevin Macdonald and Academy Award®-winning producer Simon Chinn which receives its world premiere in Cannes’ official Midnight selection; Hallelujah! directed by Chris Addison and starring Ralph Fiennes; Calm with Horses directed by Nick Rowland and starring Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan and Niamh Algar; Guns Akimbo written and directed by Jason Lei Howden and starring Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving; Billie directed award-winning filmmaker James Erskine and produced by Victoria Gregory and Barry Clark-Ewers; Black 47, directed by Lance Daly and starring Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford and Sarah Greene, which received its World Premiere Out of Competition at the Berlin International Film Festival 2018; Beats, directed by Brian Welsh and executive produced by Academy Award®-winning director Steven Soderbergh; Maradona from the Academy Award®-winning team behind Amy and Senna; Ghost Stories, directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman based on their international smash hit starring Martin Freeman, Alex Lawther and Paul Whitehouse, which will be released wide in the UK on April 13 by Lionsgate; and Black Water: Abyss directed by Andrew Traucki..

Altitude Film Distribution has expanded its slate extensively over the five years since its launch. In 2017 it released the Academy Award® Best Picture winning feature Moonlight, the Academy Award® documentary nominated I Am Not Your Negro, and was responsible for the release of Academy Award® and BAFTA-winning Amy in 2015 and 20 Feet From Stardom. Other releases include BAFTA nominees Lady Macbeth by William Oldroyd; The Florida Projectfrom Sean Baker; Beast written and directed by Michael Pearce; Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela’s Loving Vincent; Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie; Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange and Little Men; Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow; Bharat Nalluri’s Spooks: The Greater Good; Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room; Lili Fini Zanuck’s documentary Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars; and Andrey Zvyagintsev's award-winning Loveless. Forthcoming releases include Studio Ponoc’s Mary and The Witch’s Flower; Asif Kapadia’s Maradona; Kevin Macdonald’s Whitney; Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s A Prayer Before Dawn; Marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer; Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazz Sicilian Ghost Story; Chloé Zhao’s The Rider; and Brian Welsh’s Beats.


The BFI Film Fund supports world-class UK filmmaking from talent and film development, through to production and audience development across exhibition, distribution and international sales. With over £50 million of National Lottery funding to invest each year, the BFI is the UK's largest public investor in film.

Highly anticipated films backed by the BFI include Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War which will receive its world premiere In Competition at the Cannes Film Festival; Wash Westmoreland’s Colette, Idris Elba’s Yardie which premiered at Sundance; Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir; Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete which premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival; Jim Hosking’s An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn which premiered at Sundance; Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul which will open this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest; A Deal with the Universe which premiered at the BFI Flare LGBTQ+ Festival; Tinge Krishnan’s Been So Long; Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley and Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; Deborah Haywood’s Pin Cushion which opened the Critics’ Week at Venice; Saul Dibb’s Journey’s End; Steve McLean’s Postcards from London and Matthew Jones’ The Man from Mo’ Wax.

In production and post are Sacha Polak’s Dirty God; Tom Harper’s Country Music; Annabel Jankel’s Tell it to the Bees; the Chris Morris Untitled Project; Claire Denis’s High Life; Mike Leigh’s Peterloo; Chino Moya’s Undergods; Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch; Carol Morley’s Out of Blue; Tim Travers Hawkins’s XY Chelsea; Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d; Brian Welsh’s Beats; and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.

Recent releases include Aardman Animations’ box office hit Early Man, directed by Nick Park; Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here which won Best Screenplay for Ramsay and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival; Rungano Nyoni’s BAFTA-winning I Am Not A Witch which premiered in Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 2017; Clio Barnard’s Dark River; Michael Pearce’s Beast; Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country which won the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic at Sundance 2017 and the Michael Powell Award, Edinburgh International Film Festival; Paddy Considine’s Journeyman; Lucy Cohen’s Kingdom of Us, winner of the Grierson Best Documentary Award, BFI London Film Festival; Sky Neal and Kate McLarnon’s Even When I Fall; Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or 2016 and BAFTA winner; Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, Cannes Jury Prize 2016; Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster; Andy Serkis’s Breathe, Opening Gala, BFI London Film Festival 2017; Peter Mackie Burns’s Daphne, Best Performance - British Feature Film, Edinburgh International Film Festival; and Sophie Fiennes’s Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami.

The BFI is the lead organisation for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:

Connecting audiences to the widest choice of UK and World cinema
- Preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations
Championing emerging and world class filmmakers in the UK - investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work
Promoting UK film and talent to the world
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Film4 is Channel 4 Television’s feature film division. Film4 develops and co-finances films and is known for working with the most distinctive and innovative talent in UK and international filmmaking, both new and established.

Film4 has developed and co-financed many of the most successful UK films of recent years, Academy Award®-winners such as Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, Asif Kapadia’s box office record breaking documentary Amy, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady, in addition to critically-acclaimed award-winners such as Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, Chris Morris’s Four Lions, Shane Meadows’ This is England, Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years and David Mackenzie’s Starred Up.

Film4’s recent releases include Clio Barnard’s Dark River, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch, Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, Todd Haynes’ Carol and Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette. Forthcoming releases include Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, Michael Pearce’s Beast, Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, John Cameron Mitchell’s How To Talk To Girls At Parties, Jim Hosking’s An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn and Bart Layton’s American Animals. Films in production include Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, Tinge Krishnan’s Been So Long, Iain Morris’s The Festival, Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, Steve McQueen’s Widows, Stephen Merchant’s Fighting With My Family, Tom Harper’s Country Music and Asif Kapadia’s Maradona.

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Source Channel 4

May 1, 2018 5:00am ET by Channel 4  

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