Hot UK director Stephen Daldry, whose debut Billy Elliot has become both a critical and box office sensation on home turf, has signed a three-year deal with Working Title Films to direct a minimum of two films.
The pact follows on from Working Title's previous first-look arrangement with Daldry which resulted in Billy Elliot and recently expired.
However Daldry's next project is likely to be Paramount's adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours, scripted by David Hare and produced by Scott Rudin. "Stephen is keen to do the film before the strikes in Hollywood next year, but after that his next two films will be with us," said Working Title co-chief Eric Fellner.
Billy Elliot, co-produced by Working Title's low-budget label WT2 and Tiger Aspect Pictures, has grossed an impressive $18.3m (£12.8m) after six weeks on release in the UK. The title also opened with a strong screen average of $21,568 in the US on October 13. Last weekend it widened to 119 screens and took a respectable $1.06m for a screen average of $8,890.
Billy also walked away with four prizes at the recent British Independent Film Awards including best film, best director, best screenplay and best newcomer for Jamie Bell. It has also been nominated for three European Film Awards (see separate story).
Daldry moved into feature film production after a distinguished career in UK theatre. His Royal National Theatre production of An Inspector Calls won four Olivier Awards and four Tony's. He returns to the theatre in December to direct the Royal Court's production of Far Away, written by Caryl Churchill.
Commenting on the deal Daldry said: "I'm delighted to continue my close and very productive relationship with Working Title Films, who are not just one of the most influential and important film companies in the UK, but also one of the most committed and supportive. I'm deeply flattered by their long-term commitment to me."
Stacey Snider, chairman of Universal Pictures which, along with France's StudioCanal, bankrolls Working Title through a long-term agreement said: "With his very first film, Stephen demonstrated exceptional skill and artistry and we consider ourselves both fortunate and proud to be part of this fantastic collaboration and look forward to working closely with them in the future."