Brits Making it Big In Tinsel Town
The number of Britons working in the American film industry has surged by 20% in the past five years. More than 30,000 actors, directors, writers and moneymen are living in Los Angeles alone, according to their unions. Flooded by applications, the LA office of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts has all but closed its doors to new members.
According to the Sunday Times, these Brits are not flying to LA for the sunshine, but to make movies and money - and are succeeding. Reel Britannia, The Sunday Times survey of British talent in the US film business, as judged by Hollywood insiders, shows a new generation has been making itself at home in Hollywood over the past three years, following the trail pioneered by the brothers Scott, Ridley and Tony, who according to their peers are the most powerful Britons in Hollywood today.
They achieved that position by creating a business empire on the back of blockbuster successes like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Man on Fire. Widening into television programmes and a studio business, took them through the leaner years between the big screen hits.
Some of their $500m (£250m) Hollywood box office success has been reinvested back home, allowing the Scotts to refurbish the Pinewood and Shepperton studios they own in Britain, winning back from Prague the filming of the next movie in the Bond franchise.
Australian actors and Mexican directors are generating headlines, but behind the camera are British directors and moneymen, designers and writers. The UK Film Council confirms that British directors made 19 of the 200 biggest films in the last six years, with more than half of the top 200 featuring British acting talent. The writers behind two of the three most successful Holly-wood-financed franchises in history - Star Wars, James Bond and Harry Potter - are Brits.
Batman producer Peter Guber puts it down to the internet. "The Brits were early adopters of the net, which has made their product and skills more available in niche markets than ever before," he said. "The buzz about the original version of The Office came through the net even before it was shown on the cable channel BBC America, prompting NBC to buy the format for its own version before it got stale - which is what killed earlier British sitcoms."
Other studios realised from The Office success that there was money in embarrassment. Enter Sacha Baron Cohen, whose Borat cost $18m to shoot and grossed $260m at the box office - and that was before DVD and television sales.
Eddie Izzard, now a leading man, followed, so did Simon Pegg and Steve Coogan who are being seen as "formatters" of comedies and comedy is becoming a leading British export.
HOW THEY WERE JUDGED
The UK Film Council produced a ‘long list' of 100 British actors, directors and other specialists principally employed in the American film industry, from which the Sunday Times jury considered 40 leading talents and split them into ‘above the line' (actors) and ‘below the line' (everyone else).
The jury voted on five criteria: past contribution, current status, talent, future prospects and liability (how easy they are to work with).
Behind the camera
1 Ridley Scott, 69, and Scott Free Productions Tony Scott, 63
2 Peter Rice, 39 President, Fox Searchlight
3 Colin Callender, 55 President, HBO Films
4 Simon Fuller, 47 Chief executive, 19 Entertainment
5 Graham King, 45 Chief executive Initial Entertainment Group
6 Mark Burnett, 47 Chief executive, MBP production company
7 Sir Howard Stringer, 64 Chief executive, Sony Corporation
8 Nick Reed, 44 Literary/fi lm agent Bridget Jones, the Bourne Identity
9 Paul Greengrass, 51 Director United 93, The Bourne Supremacy
10 Guy Hendrix Dyas, 38 Designer Superman Returns, The Matrix
In front of the camera
1. Kate Winslet, 31 five Oscar nominations since Titanic
2. Sacha Baron Cohen, 35 a cultural phenomenon
3. Christian Bale, 33 the modern Batman
4. Dame Helen Mirren, 62 Thespian royalty
5. Hugh Grant, 46 still the classic leading man
6. Jude Law, 34 overexposed, but respected
7. Rachel Weisz, 36 Looking for a second Oscar
8. Keira Knightley, 22 English beauty beloved by Pirates
9 Ralph Fiennes, 44 the constant actor and Oscar nominee
10. Daniel Craig, 39 Bonding with Hollywood
Succeeding from home
1. J K Rowling, 42 author - Edinburgh
2. Tim Bevan, 50 and Eric Fellner, 47 Working Title - London
3. Richard Curtis, 50 writer-director - London
4. Catherine Zeta-Jones, 37 Oscar-winning actress - Bermuda
5. Dame Judi Dench, 72 Oscar-winning actress - Surrey
Ridley and Tony Scott; producer Peter Rice of Fox Searchlight; Colin Callender, the most influential Briton in American television: Graham King who turned British TV series Traffic into an Oscar-winning movie; Paul Greengrass, who directed United 93, an account of the September 11 hijackings.