Love, Actually, which wrapped this month, marks the end of an era for producer Duncan Kenworthy, who is stepping back from running UK National Lottery franchise DNA Films to focus on producing.
"Until now I have been co-chairman with Andrew [Macdonald]," said Kenworthy, best known as producer on Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill. "We have taken all the same meetings, we have been joined at the hip. It's not an efficient way to do things and it doesn't play to my strengths. Andrew will take the lead in running the company and I'm going to be producing films, which is what I enjoy more."
Kenworthy aims for the move to free him to produce non-DNA films as well as franchise titles. He and Macdonald have come under flack for spending time outside DNA producing lucrative, big-budget productions The Beach and Notting Hill.
With the franchise falling behind in production volume - it has produced only six films in five years - Macdonald brought his regular collaborator Danny Boyle into the franchise on 28 Days Later, answering critics with a runaway hit. The film's success also did no harm to DNA's talks with Fox Searchlight over a pending longterm deal.
But, although Kenworthy has brought DNA in on Love, Actually as much as he could, Universal Pictures was hardly going to allow co-investors on a Richard Curtis film. While DNA takes a credit and has some financial benefit, the franchise is not an investor as it was on 28 Days.
By all accounts, Curtis' directing debut has gone superbly. The multi-stranded story of Londoners in the run-up to Christmas came in only two days over schedule after a 13-week shoot, despite being rained off due to an electric storm in France. Kenworthy is all the more relieved as Curtis had to manage a hefty ensemble cast including Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Martine McCutcheon and Bill Nighy.
"However hard it got, you could see on Richard's face that it was a lot easier doing than standing there and watching someone else do it," Kenworthy says.
But in terms of personal credits, Kenworthy has given ground to Working Title Films co-chiefs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who for the first time on a Kenworthy-Curtis collaboration take producer rather than executive producer credits. While Kenworthy and Curtis took Notting Hill to Working Title, the production powerhouse now has its own deal with Curtis and was part of the development process on Love, Actually, which is scheduled for release in late 2003.
"There is a significant difference: I'm a producer for hire on this one," Kenworthy said. "In reality, on the ground, that has not made any difference. Working Title agreed I would be the producer during production and in post it would be all three of us."
While Kenworthy guards his producing credits on Curtis films fiercely, even this potentially fraught producing triangle is said to have gone smoothly. He cannot, however, resist adding: "We share producing credits, but I'm in first position."