Gugu Mbatha Raw will star in the title role, alongside a cast which boasts an impressive ensemble of Britain’s finest actors as well as some of the most exciting up and coming international stars, including: Tom Wilkinson; Miranda Richardson; Matthew Goode; Emily Watson and Sarah Gadon.
Recent cast additions include: Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Downton Abbey); Sam Reid (Serena, The Railway Man); Tom Felton (Harry Potter, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and James Norton (Rush).
Belle is Asante’s second film as director following the BAFTA Award-winning A Way of Life in 2004. Originally developed with Chris Collins at the UK Film Council and also at the BFI, Belle is one of the first productions to be awarded production finance by Ben Roberts, the new Director of the BFI Film Fund.
Belle is a tale of passion and romance in the face of overwhelming adversity. Inspired by a 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, and her life story, Belle tells the tale of a mixed–race girl raised as an aristocratic lady in 18th Century England. Battling social prejudice against the backdrop of a controversial slavery case, Belle brings to life the love story of Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha Raw) and John Davinier (Sam Reid), in a world where one of England’s most powerful men stands between them.
Belle will shoot in The Isle Of Man, London, Oxford, as well as Pinewood Studios, for seven weeks from 24 September.
The executive producers are Steve Christian (Chico & Rita, TT3D: Closer to the Edge), Julie Goldstein (Shakespeare in Love), Ivan Dunleavy (Pinewood Shepperton), Steve Norris (Harry Brown, Me and Orson Welles), Phil Hunt (Trishna) and Compton Ross (Trishna), Chris Collins will oversee the production for the BFI Film Fund, and the co-producers are Robert Norris and Jane Robertson (The Lady). The screenplay is written by Misan Sagay, the Director of Photography is Ben Smithard (My Week with Marilyn), Production Designer is Simon Bowles (Hyde Park on Hudson), Costume Designer is Anushia Nieradzik (Hunger), Editor is Pia Di Ciaula (Tyrannosaur) and Toby Whale (The History Boys) is the Casting Director.
Bankside Films is handling exclusive worldwide sales, with CinemaNX on board to distribute in the UK. Pre-sales concluded by Bankside include Icon in Australia, Benelux Film Distributors in Benelux, Rialto in Switzerland, Shooting Stars in Middle East, Bonton in Czech Republic, and Jaguar for World Airline rights.
Damian Jones comments: “This is an important story which still has great resonance today. Amma has created a powerful tale inspired by true historical events and adds a fresh and unique twist to this Jane Austenesque romance.”
Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI Film Fund adds: “Belle promises to be a rich and accessible period drama with a difference; exploring race, class and gender in eighteenth century Britain in a way that will entertain and enlighten audiences. Amma is an exciting filmmaker, and passionate about Belle. This is a compelling and moving screenplay inspired by real events that we’re proud to support as it enters production.”
Belle is the third project to receive investment from Pinewood Studios as part of its Pinewood Films initiative which was established to help fund and support British, independent films. Ivan Dunleavy, Chief Executive, Pinewood Shepperton plc said: “We’re really pleased to be involved with such a fantastic production team. The commercial and creative success that this group of individuals has enjoyed makes this the perfect film for us to get involved with.”
A DJ Films production, presented by Isle of Man Film, Pinewood Films and the BFI, in association with Head Gear Films and Metrol Technology.