Charlie Chaplin Documentary in the Works

They were like a blast of warm sunshine during a grim February in Norwich of 60 years ago – a city still being re-built following the Second World War.

Charlie Chaplin documentary will take us deeper into iconic figure
Altitude and Showtime have announced today that they are teaming up in representing worldwide rights to Chaplin, the upcoming second feature documentary from Peter Middleton and James Spinney, three-time BAFTA nominees for Notes on Blindness. Chaplin is the working title for the film.

Altitude is handling international rights for the film and will be introducing the project to buyers at Cannes. Showtime has North American rights. Altitude has also acquired distribution rights to the film for the UK and Ireland.

Chaplin is being funded by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, Film4 and Showtime. Further support comes from the BFI National Archive’s world-class collections and Chaplin’s World by Grévin. Chaplin’s World is a museum, housed in the historic ‘Manoir de Ban’ in Vevey, Switzerland where Chaplin lived for 25 years. It will act as a shooting location for sequences set during the latter stages of his life.

Chaplin is both the ultimate rags-to-riches story and a revealing, poignant and definitive portrait of cinema’s most iconic figure. Groundbreaking, controversial, outspoken, visionary; for decades he was the most famous man in the world – but who was the real Charlie Chaplin?

BAFTA-nominated filmmakers Middleton and Spinney have gained unprecedented access to Chaplin’s personal and creative archive, including a treasure trove of previously unknown material. Through unseen outtakes and newly unearthed audio recordings, Middleton and Spinney will chart Chaplin’s escape from an impoverished childhood in late-Victorian London to the bright lights of Hollywood at the dawn of cinema. But although his fictional alter ego the ‘Little Tramp’ brings him global fame and total artistic control, turbulent creative anxieties, successive personal scandals and a controversial political voice ultimately lead not only to the demise of his beloved character, but his rejection from America and self-imposed exile.

Smaller Biggie Productions’ Ben Limberg and Passion Pictures’ John Battsek will produce alongside Mike Brett of Archer’s Mark, bringing award-winning experience from previous films including Listen to Me Marlon and Notes on Blindness.

Mike Brett of Archer’s Mark said: “Peter and James are two of the most creatively ambitious filmmakers out there, and they are constantly pushing the boundaries of storytelling for the screen. As an unparalleled innovator and agitator in the field of cinema, Chaplin is a fitting subject for this ground-breaking film.

Peter Middleton and James Spinney said: “We feel incredibly lucky to have been welcomed by the Chaplin family into their archives. To find new perspectives on the life and work of one of the icons of the 20th century, who has left an indelible mark on popular culture, is a huge and exciting challenge. Chaplin described his life as a ‘fairy tale’, and its themes of inequality, power, celebrity and artistry couldn’t be more relevant today.”

Vinnie Malhotra, Snr. Vice President Documentary, Unscripted & Sports at Showtime said: “Chaplin is the most iconic figure in film history, and as a result, is bathed in mythology. With unprecedented historical resources at their disposal and a keen eye for complexity and nuance, Peter and James will bring us the most definitive and rewarding exploration of Chaplin’s remarkable life.”

Will Clarke, Chairman and co-CEO of Altitude said: “Chaplin will be the definitive story of one of the world’s biggest and most powerful stars whose extraordinary life courted adulation and controversy. This will be Chaplin as never seen or heard before revealed through the breathtaking beauty and innovatory techniques that Peter and James bring to their filmmaking.”

Lizzie Francke from the BFI said: “We are delighted to be working with Peter and James and the incredibly talented team behind Notes on Blindness. Their creatively innovative approach to such an iconic figure as Chaplin promises a definitive and vivid portrait, making this pioneering figure of early cinema relevant to 21st century young audiences as much as classic film fans.”

Sam Lavender from Film4 said: “Chaplin was the first ever truly global screen celebrity, and a man with an extraordinary life story. Peter and James captivated us utterly with their vision for this film and their fascination with the man – we couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this journey.”

Ben Limberg of Smaller Biggie said: “Chaplin’s family have been enormously supportive and helpful in the making of this film. And through the wonderful Kate Guyonvarch, who runs the Chaplin estate, we have exclusive access to the entire Chaplin library, an extraordinary collection of materials. Mixed with breathtaking new audio of Chaplin speaking about his life and work it is truly humbling to be making such an exciting film about the father of cinema.”

John Battsek of Passion Pictures said: “As soon as I saw Notes On Blindness I knew I wanted Passion Pictures to be part of producing Peter and James’ next film. When Ben Limberg approached me with the idea of Charlie Chaplin as a subject, I saw the stars aligning. With Showtime, BFI, Film4 and Altitude as partners I couldn’t be more delighted that we are now all embarking on this journey together.”

Chaplin is a Passion Pictures, Archer’s Mark and Smaller Biggie production, in association with Fee Fie Foe.

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