Why Don’t British Stars Get Sweet Hollywood Studio Deals?

Deadline.com‘s Tim Adler has done a fabulous industry piece about why so few big-name UK actors have their own production companies or have “first-look” vanity deals with studios. After all, American stars like George Clooney (Smokehouse Pictures), Reese Witherspoon (Type A), and Ashton Kutcher (Katalyst) have had their own outfits, so why haven’t British A-listers like Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley gotten in the game?

Adler lists the seven UK-based production companies with first look deals at Hollywood studios, which are “Working Title (Universal Picture), Sam Mendes‘s Neal Street Productions (Focus Features), Harry Potter-producer Heyday (Warner Bros), Wallace and Gromit-maker Aardman Animations (Sony Pictures Entertainment), Elton John‘s Rocket Pictures (Walt Disney Studios), Ridley and Tony Scott‘s Scott Free (Twentieth Century Fox), and James Bond factory Danjaq Productions (what’s left of MGM).” None are vehicles for actors. Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, and other UK stars tried to start their own “United Artists”-type production company back in the ’90s, but their film commitments got in the way. These production outfits require a lot of work, and most, even those of U.S. stars, barely get off the ground before crashing out.

There are three actors who are changing that: former Doctor Who star Noel Clarke (Unstoppable Entertainment), comedian Simon Pegg (Big Talk), and Ray Winstone (Size 9). Clarke and Pegg have deals with UK-based film companies. However, most British stars with production companies work in TV. Celebrities like Steve Coogan (Baby Cow), Stephen Fry (Sprout), Robson Green (Coastal), Graham Norton (So Television), and Gavin & Stacey star/co-creator Ruth Jones (Tidy) all produce primarily for the small screen.

It appears that these actors are simply going where they can have the most success. After all, even Hollywood’s biggest film stars are having a rough go these days.And God bless Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, and Daniel Day-Lewis, but none of these names is a box-office home run. What do you think? Should British stars take more control over their careers, or should they stay “actors-for-hire”?

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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