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Mike Leigh’s Secret COVID-Delayed Movie Set to Finally Shoot This Year

Details about the movie were reportedly even under wraps for buyers.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Director Mike Leigh attends the screening and Q&A of "Naked" as part of the Mike Leigh celebratory season at BFI Southbank on November 13, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images for BFI)

Mike Leigh

Getty Images for BFI

It won’t be “Another Year” after all before we see Mike Leigh’s next movie.

The seven-time Oscar-nominated British filmmaker behind classics new and old like “Secrets & Lies,” “Happy-Go-Lucky,” and “Topsy-Turvy” hasn’t released a picture since his 2018 epic “Peterloo” got backed by Amazon. The director in February 2020, of all times, announced a new project with U.S. distribution courtesy of Bleecker Street. The rest is history, and now, three years later, the film is starting to take shape.

IndieWire has learned that Leigh’s next movie, co-financed by Film4 and Creative Media and set for a hometown U.K. release from StudioCanal, will at last begin production this year. But there’s a catch for the next film from the “Vera Drake” writer-director, which is that any details remain not just scarce but nonexistent: The project is reportedly so secret that plot specifics are not only being kept from the press but from buyers as well. Cornerstone Films handles international sales at the European Film Market in Berlin.

The celebrated, decades-working master filmmaker, who develops projects via his Third Man Films banner, has earned the right to keep his projects close to his chest. His 2018 film about the Peterloo Massacre, which saw Manchesterians gather to call for parliamentary reform 200 years ago in a darkly definitive moment for British history, was his biggest canvas yet: “I don’t suppose I’ve ever made a film the funds for which, somewhere along the lines, didn’t come from some reprehensible force,” he told THR circa “Peterloo’s” release.

But, at the time, he also stressed that Amazon didn’t meddle with the project, which carried an impressive-for-Leigh $18 million budget. “Amazon was fantastic,” he told IndieWire. “[Former Amazon Studios motion picture chief] Ted Hope was supportive, he never interfered in any aspect of the production from the earliest to the end. There was absolutely no pressure of any kind.”

And this level of secrecy surrounding the new movie isn’t unusual. Leigh, notoriously, does not offer stakeholders a script to read; even with actors, it’s typical they’ll all be making it up as they go along.

“I do it after the film’s finished…. I don’t draw any distinction between the script and the film,” he said. We develop the characters and rehearse and fix the scenes separately and then integrate them into the whole thing.”

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