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Keeping Faith In ‘The Traitors

The Traitors

BBC/Studio Lambert/Paul Chappells

Staying faithful: Has there been another entertainment show with an impact nearing that of The Traitors in recent years? The reality whodunnit format has sold around the world after debuting in the Netherlands, becoming a smash on Peacock and the BBC in the UK. For my money, it’s the casting that’s marked it out from the crowd, and casting will be all-important to the upcoming British celebrity version. As Stewart and Max revealed yesterday, the BBC and Studio Lambert — which makes the UK and U.S. versions — are close to a deal make a version with famous faces. Regular Traitors host Claudia Winkleman is set to present. Our sources say the BBC has big ambitions for the caliber of star it can attract, with Friends star Courteney Cox immediately linked after she was involved in a promo casting call video for the UK show. She is also, er, friends with Winkleman, making her a good candidate to become a faithful or a traitor. Having been a huge ratings hit in the UK, a celebrity version would be the latest boon for the globe-trotting show, which has unseated The Masked Singer as the most launched format title around with world (eleven in 2023, in case you were wondering). With entertainment cheaper to produce than drama, and clearly more than capable of delivering big audiences, it’s easy to see how The Traitors could be leading a new chapter in the book of TV. Indeed, in the past week Studio Lambert has landed another unscripted competition series, The Anonymous (working title) for USA Network, as Peter White told you first on Monday. That’s both good news for the genre, Studio Lambert and its parent-not-parent company All3Media.

Pos pact: Less good news for All3 was incoming, however, as The Traitors creator Marc Pos struck a development deal with Big Brother powerhouse Banijay. The agreement will see Pos’s MPLab look to forge broad international formats that are available to Banijay production houses and Banijay Rights. Pos created The Traitors for All3’s Dutch production house IDTV, working with the RTL Creative Unit to develop the idea. Though it’s fair to say Studio Lambert’s decision to produce the U.S. and UK versions out of a Scottish castle has been instrumental in its success, Pos’s original idea is where it all began. All3 may be smarting somewhat that he’s now in business with its biggest rival despite never having had a formal agreement with him in place. Pos called MasterChef maker Banijay “the home of the superbrand” — though his masterpiece, The Traitors, stays at All3.

No home ‘Alone‘: More formats news out of the UK emerged this week as Max revealed that Channel 4 has axed its version of History survival competition series Alone. The show, which is from Squid Game: The Challenge co-producer The Garden, was one of several under consideration for a second season that has ultimately been culled. A Channel 4 rep said the decision was “editorial not financial,” which if true is good news for producers who have been significantly impacted by a major commissioning slowdown at the network. As for Alone, it remains a stalwart for History in the U.S., with format seller A+E Networks pointing to successful remakes in Australia, Germany and across the Nordics. Of course, international production is core to the formats business, as evidenced when we broke the news the U.S.’s Critical Content had struck deals with ITV Studios France and Belgium’s Be-Entertainment — the company that shops upcoming BBC/NBC series Destination X — as part of an international strategy to grow worldwide. Jenny Daly, President of Critical, said the deals reflect “goals of expanding our format footprint beyond U.S. sales.”

Breaking Baz At The Oliviers

Olivier Awards

Marc Brenner/Joan Marcus/Getty

And the winner is…: Sunday was Oliviers night in London, and the glamorous shindig certainly lived up to the famous thesp who gave his name to the awards. Nicole Scherzinger and Sarah Snook were among the big winners at the Royal Albert Hall event, with Succession star Snook taking home the Best Actress gong for her multi-character performance in the Sydney Theatre Company’s version of Oscar Wilde play The Picture of Dorian Gray. It would turn out to be a big week for that play, with Andreas yesterday revealing Cate Blanchett’s Dirty Films had acquired film rights to adapt it for the big screen. We hear Blanchett watched the play several times and was desperate to buy it. Sunset Boulevard was the overall awards leader with seven, including a Best Director nod for Jamie Lloyd (more on him below), while The Motive and the Cue provided a Best Actor in Mark Gatiss. For a full list of the winners and exclusive video interviews with the likes of Gatiss, Joseph Fiennes and Marisha Wallace, click here.

Scherzinger’s ‘Sunset’: Of course, our theater guru Baz Bamigboye was at the awards, pressing the flesh on the green carpet and catching the gossip. He was everywhere, in fact, gaining backstage access at the industry shindig and cornering the likes of Lloyd, who won Best Director for his history-making reimagining of Sunset Boulevard. Lloyd revealed to our man that Scherzinger had initially been very much against her casting in the famous Norma Desmond role until he talked her round. As it turned out, Scherzinger’s performance is something close to career-defining — winning her the Best Actress in a Musical award. 

It’s Hannah’s world, we’re just living in it: As Baz rightly noted in his diary column, awards host Hannah Waddingham was the star of the show (and the afterparty). “She made the ceremony go with a delicious zing while effortlessly oozing star-wattage glamor,” Baz eloquently wrote. Close to midnight at the Natural History Museum gig, Waddingham provided some more of that star power, poking her tongue out at Baz as she tended to a flute of Tattinger. The Ted Lasso star also made national headlines the following morning, when footage of her scolding a photographer who’d told her to “show leg” as she posed for pictures emerged. “Don’t be a dick,” she was filmed saying — and the internet warmly applauded. Bravo, Hannah!

Defining Superprod

Clément Calvet, Jérémie Fajner


“Working across the whole spectrum”: Paris-based Superprod is the subject of this week’s International Disruptors feature. Melanie met with Clément Clavet and Jérémie Fajner to unpack exactly what the production and distribution business really is, and what the ambition is going forwards. Starting life in 2010 as an animation specialist, the company now has interests in live-action, music rights, international co-production and feature films. The latest development is the creation of Superprod’s own proprietary Universal Scene Description online content exchange pipeline tech, which allows creators to jump between different types of software. The picture Mel builds is of a growing European powerhouse with fingers in many pies, and production at its core. As Calvet himself proclaims: “We’re several companies, but one studio.” Read on.

Johnny de Barry: Superprod wasn’t the only indie production outfit Mel tracked down this week. Also on the radar was Johnny Depp‘s London-based IN.2, which today releases the actor’s comeback movie, Jeanne du Barry, on 70 screens across the UK. Of course, Depp’s high-profile personal troubles have been defining his career in recent years, but his team are hoping that’s behind him now. “I like to think everyone’s moved on,” says IN.2 Head of Production Stephan Malit, when probed as to whether British firms were deterred from buying Jeanne du Barry due to negative press over Depp’s legal issues with former wife Amber Heard. But have they? The piece provides the context and is more than worth a read here.

The Sands Of Time

Courtesy of AGBO/Peter Andrews

​​​​​​​Russoderbergh ready: Scotland’s Sands International Film Festival kicks off this evening with a double-bill screening of British writer-director Naqqash Khalid’s debut feature In Camera and Harry Holland’s short film Last Call, starring Tom Holland. The third edition of the boutique fest, programmed by industry vet Ania Trzebiatowska, runs over three days out of the ancient town of St Andrews, where future king Prince William met his wife, Catherine Middleton. Other highlight events across the weekend include an onstage Q&A with Steven Soderbergh. The session will follow a screening of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Welcome to Collinwood, which Soderbergh championed back in the 1990s following its debut at Slamdance. Anthony and Joe, who co-founded Sands, will also be on stage, adding more Hollywood firepower to the event. Elsewhere, Apple TV+ docs head Molly Thompson and John Sloss, producer, founder and CEO of Cinetic Media, will take part in a discussion on documentary filmmaking, moderated by Oscar-winning producer Melanie Miller (Navalny). The festival will close on April 21 with Maggie Contreras’ debut feature documentary Maestra. The film follows five female conductors from across the globe preparing for and competing in La Maestra – the world’s only competition for female conductors. Follow all of our Sands coverage here.

Hugh Settles But Stays Hacked Off

Hugh Grant, 'Heretic' star

Jason Bell

“I refuse to let this be hush money”: Hugh Grant has been a thorn in the side of Britain’s tabloid newspapers for well over a decade, but his latest war with Rupert Murdoch‘s empire has come to an end (for now.) On Wednesday, the Paddington 2 star settled his case with Murdoch’s News Group Newspaper, which publishes The Sun. However, he’s not a happy bunny, saying civil litigation laws have forced his decision. In short, his lawyers advised him that should he go to trial and is subsequently awarded damages “even a penny less than the settlement offer,” Grant would be forced to pay the costs on both sides, estimated at around £10M ($12.4M). Grant believes Murdoch’s news operations have used this tactic to settle “over 1,500 claims” over the years to ensure damaging trials are scotched before they reach court. The Notting Hill star plans to use the settlement money to fund groups campaigning against practices at the likes of The Sun and The Mirror, and said the cash “has a stink.” For its part, NGN released a statement pointing to a previous apology from 2011 and said that “in some cases, it has made commercial sense for both parties to come to a settlement,” while noting its agreement with Grant was no admission of liability. Grant, along with the likes of Prince Harry, had sued NGN over alleged widespread unlawful information gathering and had been given permission to take the case to court. The impact of this latest settlement on that situation is yet to be seen. As journalists, including our own Jake Kanter, discussed on The Media Show podcast this week, Grant’s decision could weaken the Duke of Sussex’s ongoing legal battle with Britain’s newspapers, as another key ally is removed from the battlefield. There are still about 40 claims heading to trial alongside Harry’s own, and it looks likely the royal wants to achieve his ultimate goal and take down Murdoch. The stench from the worst excesses of tabloid reporting from earlier this century lingers.

The Essentials

Orlando Whitfield and his book 'All That Glitters'

Orlando Whitfield and his book ‘All That Glitters’

Robin Christian

🌶️ Hot One: HBO is teaming with Doctor Who producer Bad Wolf on a series about a flamboyant art fraudster based on Orlando Whitfield’s book All That Glitters as Jake revealed.

🌶️ Fire in the booth: Principal photography began on Netflix’ French action thriller Ad Vitam, starring Guillaume Canet.

🌶️ Another one: Rye Lane star David Jonsson is penning his debut drama series, titled Hype (working title).

⏳ Pending: ITV Studios is in pole position to complete a deal for Sherlock maker Hartswood Films.

🖊️ Signed: Rising Australian star Felix Cameron, a breakout star of Netflix’s Boy Swallows Universe.

🤝 Renewable energy: The Larraín brothers’ Fabula will remain in business with Fremantle.

👩🏼‍⚖️ Legal: BBC News channel presenter Martine Croxall is taking the BBC to an employment tribunal.

🍁 Oh, Canada: A writers’ strike moved a step closer to happening, but pubcaster CBC received a $30M boost from the government.

🌴 Feted at Cannes: Japan’s Studio Ghibli will receive an honorary Palme D’Or at the film fest.

✍️ Hired: UK agency InterTalent made a spate of hires and promotions.

🎥 Trail: For Lebanese filmmaker Mira Shaib’s Beirut-set drama Arzé..

Zac Ntim contributed to this week’s Insider

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