Matthew Vaughn and Kris Thykier of MARV Films are moving into the big league with Stardust and a new Sony deal. Wendy Mitchell reports.

Anyone bemoaning the decline of the UK film industry should open their eyes to the banner year at Matthew Vaughn's Marv Films. Marv has made the $90m fantasy epic Stardust with Paramount and has just signed a three-year first-look deal with Sony through its International Motion Picture Production initiative.

'We want people to know there's another British production company that can get films financed and made,' says Kris Thykier, Vaughn's new partner in Marv.

The Sony deal puts Marv in the formidable company of UK producers such as Working Title (partnered with Universal), DNA (Fox), Harbour (Buena Vista), Material (New Line) and Aardman (also with Sony).

Vaughn (pictured above, centre) launched Marv in 2003 after leaving Ska Films, the company he set up with Guy Ritchie to make Mean Machine, Snatch and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. He moved into directing with 2004's gangster story Layer Cake, and now the more ambitious Stardust, adapted from a Neil Gaiman story and starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller and Michelle Pfeiffer. Vaughn produced Stardust alongside Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Dreyer and Gaiman.

'When I set up Marv I wasn't intending to direct, so I didn't need help with producing. Directing is my new hobby,' Vaughn says, with a laugh. 'I'll be more of a creative producer and Kris can take over my traditional producing role.'

Vaughn and Thykier have known each other for years. Thykier left his post as vice chairman of marketing at London PR company Freud Communications (where he worked for 15 years) to join Marv four months ago.

'We had this long-standing relationship and worked on some titles together when I was at Freuds. It was fortunate timing based on 17 years of conversations,' Thykier says.

'Matthew has a commercial sensibility, which I strongly agree with, and that's a rarity in the UK,' Thykier says. 'There's a nice match between Matthew's expertise in developing projects and casting, and my experience with distribution and marketing and seeing a film through.'

Marv will aim to make two or three movies per year, mostly 'with budgets under $25m with a specific aim of nurturing British talent. We also want those movies to ultimately travel internationally,' Thykier explains.

Also, Marv will continue to develop projects that Vaughn will direct, which will be higher budget and could go through Sony though Vaughn is free to work with other studios as a director. Through Stardust, he already has a relationship with Paramount.

Vaughn raised half of Stardust's funding himself before bringing Paramount on board - a leap of faith as no cast was attached. 'They totally supported me and both (chairman) Brad Grey and (production chief) Brad Weston have been fantastic,' the director says. Paramount will release in the US on August 10 and in the UK on October 19.

Through Freuds, Thykier had worked with Sony for years, and Vaughn had good experience with Columbia TriStar, particularly vice-chairman Gareth Wigan, as it released Snatch, Swept Away and Layer Cake.

'Sony seemed very, very serious about their gameplan for international,' Vaughn says. 'I felt Sony right now is going to want to make the same kinds of films we want to make.'

Vaughn says Marv's productions will offer a range of subjects. 'All I care about is that they are entertaining. If it's a horror, it will be scary. If it's a comedy, it will be funny.'

Vaughn says he does not know what his next directorial project will be, but Marv's next production is likely to be a First World War story.