A combination of US and leading UK talent defines the debut slate of the UK Film Council's commercially-oriented Premiere Fund, while the support body's New Cinema Fund for low-budget projects aims to mix innovation with established names such as Alex Cox, Christopher Eccleston and Simon Beaufoy
Robert Altman's Gosford Park has secured the most out of all Film Council-backed projects, being granted $2.9m (£2m) from the Premiere Fund run by Robert Jones. The 1930s murder-mystery has raised some industry hackles for securing support from the National Lottery-backed fund despite its heavy amount of US elements, although it is set and to be shot in the UK with a extensive cast of leading local talent including Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard E Grant and Emily Watson.
US actor Ryan Phillippe also stars, while the script is written by UK newcomer Julian Fellowes. Altman, David Levy and Bob Balaban are producing, with Jane Frazer co-producing. London-based Capitol Films is handling worldwide sales, as well as taking a producing credit, with USA Films distributing in North America. The cast also includes Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, Jeremy Northam, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, James Wilby, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Stephen Fry, Alan Bates and Eileen Atkins.
The Premiere fund is pumping $1.7m (£1.2m) into Mike Bassett: England Manager, a mockumentary comedy about the England squad at the World Cup. Directed by Steve Barron, the cast includes Ricky Tomlinson, Amanda Redman, Phil Jupitus and Robbie Gee. Neil Peplow is producing, with the UK's Entertainment Film Distributors and the US' Hallmark Entertainment also on board.
Jones is also backing FilmFour's Miranda to the tune of £850,000. The romantic comedy thriller starring Christina Ricci, John Hurt and John Simm. Directed by Marc Munden, the picture is produced by Laurence Bowen's Feelgood Films from a script by Rob Young.
The $7.2m (£5m) annual New Cinema Fund for low budget and innovative projects is investing $743,000 (£500,000) in Revengers Tragedy, the first all-British project from director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy). Christopher Eccleston, Steven Berkoff and Margi Clarke star in Frank Cottrell Boyce's adaptation of Thomas Middleton's Jacobean classic.
Cox's updated take is set in a future where the hero Vindici returns from self-exile at sea to seek revenge for the rape and murder of his wife by the all-powerful Duke. Margaret Matheson's Bard Entertainments, which has credits including Eve's Bayou and Antonia's Line, is producing.
The fund is also investing $294,000 (£202,597) in This Is Not A Love Song, a thriller directed by The Darkest Light's Bille Eltringham and written by The Full Monty's Simon Beaufoy. To be shot on digital video over 12 days, the story of a farmer and his friends hunting down two small-time criminals is billed as "reminiscent of a dark western". Darkest's Light's Mark Blaney is producing, while Under The Skin's Kate Ogborn is executive producing.
Additionally, Bloody Sunday has secured $362,000 (£250,000) from the fund. The politically-charged story of the 1972 killing of unarmed civilians by British paratroopers in Northern Ireland is being directed by Paul Greengrass, whose feature credits include The Theory Of Flight. Mark Redhead is producing and Granada Film's Pippa Cross is executive producing with Arthur Lappin and Jim Sheridan of Hell's Kitchen. James Nesbitt and Tim Pigott-Smith are starring, with Portman Films handling international sales.
Finally, Ape, which has $217,000 (£150,000) from the fund, is an animation about a frustrated orang-utan who escapes New York's Bronx Zoo in the 1920s to fulfil his dream of becoming a national celebrity chat-show host. Rory Bresnihan is writing and directing, while producing duties go to Robert Walpole and Paddy Breathnach of Treasure Films, which has credits including I Went Down and Saltwater.
"I am delighted to announce our first slate of investments across a wide variety of talent exploring film, digital production and delivery technology," said Paul Trijbits, head of the New Cinema Fund.