The five-part miniseries, on Showtime, is a rare achievement: an addiction memoir that works on-screen.
Patrick Melrose begins in 1982, in London, when Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch) answers a ringing telephone to learn that his father has died. Immediately, it’s apparent that something is off. Patrick conducts the conversation as if he is underwater. Director Edward Berger’s lens indifferently tracks his striped-shirted torso, his hand, then the top of his short-cropped head as Patrick struggles to keep himself upright. The camera’s heavy apparatus droops and nods uncontrollably, swaying back and forth in an effort to keep Patrick in frame. Finally, the contents of the call tumble out of the phone and into Patrick’s brain, and he bends over. We think he’s wracked with grief—but instead, he picks up a syringe.
Since Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater vaulted him into the English canon in 1821—and certainly since beat writer William S. Burroughs’s Junky, in 1953—literature has seen no shortage of addiction sagas. Patrick Melrose, a five-part miniseries debuting on Showtime May 12, is based on one of them; the show is adapted from a series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn, in which Patrick serves as the author’s stand-in for his own struggles with heroin, his abusive father, and the privileged but isolating world he was born into. At the height of his addiction, which stemmed from repeated, harrowing childhood trauma, he was going through $5,000 worth of drugs a week.
But instead of dwelling on the height of addiction, the astonishingly vulnerable, raw Patrick Melrose is largely committed to exploring the duller but more important work of recovery. As St. Aubyn told The New Yorker in 2014, the books track Patrick as he tries to move forward from addiction “with dignity, from an impossible assault on dignity.” His books, the first of which was published in 1992, have since won a cult following—which counts among its ranks none other than Cumberbatch himself. Cumberbatch has said that his only two bucket-list roles are Hamlet and Patrick Melrose. (Cumberbatch played the Danish prince at the Barbican in London in 2015.) Shortly afterward, producers Michael Jackson and Rachael Horovitz reached out to Cumberbatch about this adaptation of St. Aubyn’s work. Cumberbatch signed on to both play the titular role and to executive-produce the miniseries.
Actors’ pet projects aren’t often known for their elegance; the news that Cumberbatch sought out the part could have suggested that Patrick Melrose would be an amalgam of carefully positioned Emmy reels. It’s true that the series is a smorgasbord of acting opportunities—especially in its first installment, “Bad News,” in which Patrick is under the influence of heroin, cocaine, quaaludes, amphetamines, and alcohol, alternately and all together.
The effect is not of a bull in a china shop, or of peasants storming the Bastille. Instead, it is a distracted unearthing, as if the high-strung protagonist has overturned the noble trappings of his childhood because he is searching for something beneath. It’s a restrained gesture, and mostly gentle, as befits a man so terrified of encountering the world sober that he ingests any drug he can find. But his spirit is still caustic enough to dislodge the baubles and bits of glass that embellish wealth, to shake off the trappings of class to reveal the creatures who dwell within. Unadorned, and naked, their frailty is blinding. Patrick Melrose invites the viewer to strip away illusions, as he does—to meditate, with him, on what it means to try to be better.
Benedict Cumberbatch is returning to the Cold War. He’ll play a spy in the thriller “Ironbark.”
FilmNation Entertainment is financing and handling international sales on the film.
The movie is based on the true story of Greville Wynne (played by Cumberbatch), a British businessman who helped the CIA penetrate the Soviet nuclear program during the Cold War. Wynne and his Russian source, Oleg Penkovsky, provided the crucial intelligence that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Dominic Cooke will direct and executive produce with Cumberbatch and Tom O’Connor. The project is based on a spec script by O’Connor.
FilmNation will debut “Ironbark” to buyers at the Cannes Film Market next week. UTA Independent Film Group will handle U.S. sales.
42’s Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken will produce the movie, alongside Adam Ackland (“Patrick Melrose”), SunnyMarch, and FilmNation. Cumberbatch, Cooke, and O’Connor will executive produce along with Josh Varney from 42 and Leah Clarke of SunnyMarch. The deal was negotiated by UTA Independent Film Group on behalf of the filmmaking team with Alison Cohen for FilmNation.
Cumberbatch can currently be seen on the big screen in “Avengers: Infinity War” and stars in Showtime’s upcoming “Patrick Melrose.”
Cumberbatch is represented by UTA and John Grant at Conway Van Gelder Grant. Cooke is represented by UTA and Jodi Shields at Casarotto Ramsay & Associates. O’Connor is represented by UTA. The news was first reported by Deadline.
Benedict Cumberbatch will star in a Channel 4 TV drama about the Brexit vote in the U.K., which will be timed to air as Britain leaves the European Union next March. Cumberbatch will play Dominic Cummings, the leading strategist and campaign director of the Vote Leave movement, which sought to persuade British voters to opt for exiting the EU.
“I am particularly pleased to commission James Graham’s hard-hitting and compulsive drama on how the Brexit vote was won with Benedict Cumberbatch in a new role,” Channel 4’s new programming boss, Ian Katz, said at a Channel 4 event in London, Wednesday. “It will be broadcast just ahead of our formal [exit] from the EU in March, assuming that we actually get around to leaving.”
Graham wrote the stage play “The Vote,” which was set on the night of the general election vote and featured an ensemble cast including Mark Gatiss and Judi Dench. His Channel 4 project “Brexit” will be a 120-minute one-off.
“I’m so excited – not to mention a little nervous – to have this chance to try and get under the skin of what happened during that historic vote,” Graham said. “I hope by going behind-the-scenes of the campaign, we’re able to interrogate the consequences of what happened during these 8 weeks that have changed the country forever.”
Beth Willis, head of drama at Channel 4, added: “James’ whip smart, funny and insightful writing is a breath of fresh air. We are so thrilled that he and the genius that is Benedict Cumberbatch feel Channel 4 is the right home for it – Brexit is exactly the kind of explosive and illuminating drama we want to have on the channel.”
House Productions, the U.K. indie producer created by former Working Title TV boss Juliette Howell and former Film4 head Tessa Ross, will produce “Brexit.” Toby Haynes (“Black Mirror”) will direct. Shooting starts later this year.
Britain and Europe are still grappling with the likely impact Brexit will have. At the Cannes Film Festival last week Margot James, minister for the digital and creative industries told Variety it would not have a significant impact on the U.K. film industry.
Patrick Melrose premiered last Saturday on Showtime with a brilliant episode and performance from Benedict. Cant wait for more episodes.
Here are screen captures from the first episode titled “Bad News”
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the launch of ‘Patrick Melrose’ on May 9, 2018 in London, England. Our gallery was updated with high quality images, take a look!
Earlier today, Variety started recording this year’s Actors on Actors segments, which airs on June 19th and June 21st. Here are some photos of Benedict and Claire:
Yesterday, Benedict attended an event from Showtime “For Your Consideration” for promoting Patrick Melrose. Here are some photos.
The stakes are high for James Corden’s newest business venture, James Corden’s Star Star Tours, the star tour that takes the stars on tour. But things get off to a great start when the cast of “Avengers: Infinity War” shows up for their tour, and James teaches them about buying coffee and waiting in lines, and the tour makes a stop at a comic book store.
Benedict Cumberbatch is at the Los Angeles Premiere for Patrick Melrose. Our gallery has been updated with over 200 high quality images from the premiere.