Stupid recession. First it claims Cattlegrid on Poland Street – one of Empire’s favourite lunchtime hangouts – and now it’s derailed a movie we were eagerly looking forward to, Joe Wright’s Indian Summer.
Wright had been prepping his fourth movie, an epic adaptation of the Alex von Tunzelmann novel about the last days of Britain’s colonial rule in India, for some time, with filming set to begin in India next year. Cate Blanchett had been cast as Edna Mountbatten, the wife of Britain’s Indian viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, who was alleged to have had an affair with Jawaharlal Neru, the first Indian to take the post of Prime Minister after independence was declared in 1947.
However, Variety is claiming that, in a surprising move, Universal – which had partnered, as usual, with Working Title on the movie – got cold feet about the movie’s budget, which was rumoured to be in the $30-40 million range, and has pushed it back for a while.
Working Title and Wright had looked at making the movie for around $30 million – Working Title can greenlight, on its own, any film under that figure – but couldn’t make the numbers work. And now, for the sake of an extra ten million or so, the plug has been pulled. Hopefully only on a temporary basis.
There were other factors, including the logistical difficulty of shooting in India, and concerns about the prominence of the love story between Lady Mountbatten and Neru.
However, it would seem that the budget was the main reason for the delay and, if so, that’s quite a stark development, with major implications for the future of movies like this. Increasingly, Empire has been talking to major Hollywood directors disaffected at the way the industry is going, with studios apparently only keen to greenlight major tentpoles (of budgets north of $100 million), or to pick up indie films made for under $25-30 million. Movies in the $40-80 million range are simply being ignored and left behind, because – for the most part – they won’t make that much of a killing at the box office, which obviously has repercussions for the likes of Wright, who appear happy to work almost exclusively within that zone.
But Wright remains one of the brightest directors out there, and we’re sure he’ll line up another project in next to no time. Fingers crossed, though, that when things start to pick up and the recession begins to abate, Indian Summer can get back on the starting grid. Wright and Blanchett will remain attached to the project, so watch this space.