Stephen Frears’ “Billy Wilder and Me” is aiming for 2024 shooting, says Qumra master Christopher Hampton


Source: Andriy Makukha / Grigory Ganzburg (licensed under CC by 4.0)

Stephen Frears, Christopher Hampton, Billy Wilder

Stephen Frears’ Billy Wilder And Me is looking at a 2024 shoot due to other commitments from cast and crew, according to writer Christopher Hampton.

Speaking to Screen in Doha, Qatar, where he is a master at the Qumra incubator, Hampton said, “We’re in a good space because Stephen Frears is going to direct it, and Christoph Waltz is going to be playing Billy Wilder.”

He said didn’t believe that a shoot this year would be possible, with next year looking most likely.

First announced by Screen in May last year, Billy Wilder And Me is an adaptation of Jonathan Coe’s 2020 novel Mr. Wilder And Me, about the struggles of the legendary US director to make his penultimate film Fedora.

The film is being co-produced with Germany’s Pandora Film, and received EUR75,000 in development funding from regional film fund FFF Bayern last year.

It was “one of those scripts that almost wrote itself, which is always a good sign,” Hampton said. After Wilder encouraged him to write a Hampton’s play Tales From Hollywood about German emigres working in the Los Angeles movie industry, Hampton knew Wilder personally. Born Samuel Wilder in Poland in 1906, Wilder lived in Germany but left on March 5, 1933 – the day that the Nazis acquired power through federal elections.

Hampton gave updates on several other projects to which he is attached. Alongside director James Kent, he is “still trying to put together” Heart Of A Soldier, about a British and an American soldier who journey through conflict and peace from the Vietnam war to 9/11.

Having grown up in both Egypt and Yemen, Hampton is still planning to direct the long-gestating semi-autobiographical White Chameleon, with Mohamed Hefzy producing through his Cairo-based Film Clinic. The film was set to shoot as a UK production as far back as 2010, but was put on hold due to the Arab Spring uprisings.

The filmmaker also has a completed script for Dalila, about asylum seekers in the UK, which he describes as “a Ken Loach-y kind of film, very angry.”

One project he could not provide an update on is the film version of the Sunset Boulevard musical – itself based on Wilder’s 1950 classic film. Hampton said that he had written the script and never heard from Paramount Pictures again. “I wrote the script and never heard back from them again,” Hampton said last year.

Man of letters

Glenn close is attached to the role as Norma Desmond. She reprised the role she played on stage in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. Last year Close said the film version is “getting closer”.

Man of letters

Hampton gave a two-hour masterclass on Monday morning (March 13), at which he was introduced by Qumra moderator Richard Pena as “a true man of letters”.

He recalled starting his career writing for theatre, which was “happening at that point and quite prestigious in Britain, whereas it seemed difficult to break into movies. Maybe I would have gone into film if I was French.Hampton’s breakout screen work, Dangerous liaisons

, was directed by Frears and based on Hampton’s 1985 play. He repeated that double 22 years later for Florian Zeller’s The Father.

The Qumra audience consists mainly of the emerging filmmakers presenting their projects to industry guests. Hampton advised those who are aspiring to be filmmakers to “hire only the best people for the job, and let them do what is best.” And intervene as little as possible.” He also recommended that writers maintain rights to their work, and ask for a producer credit whenever possible.

Qumra continues tomorrow with a masterclass by US costume designer Jaqueline West; the event in Qatar runs in-person through March 15 and online from March 19-21.

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