Mike Leigh Starts Shooting ‘Peterloo,’ A Fact-Based Amazon-Backed Period Drama

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Any Mike Leigh movie is an event. And like many of the world’s most ambitious filmmakers, he’s gone to a streaming service for financing. Amazon Studios has acquired North American distribution rights to his latest, “Peterloo,” about the 1819 massacre, which begins filming today on location in England with a cast of over 100 actors led by Eddie Marsan, Samantha Spiro, and Sam Kelly. Leigh plans to finish in late August.

Amazon brought films by Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch and Nicolas Winding Refn to Cannes last year, and is set to debut Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck” and Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” at the festival, which could unveil “Peterloo” in 2018. Amazon Studios, unlike Netflix, shows its films in cinemas.

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The Manchester-born filmmaker returns to a big-scale period drama, his fourth, for his follow-up to Cannes entry and Oscar contender “Mr. Turner,” starring Leigh regular Timothy Spall as the great British painter JMW Turner.

During the Peterloo massacre, the British cavalry charged into 60,000 protesters in St Peter’s Field in Manchester who were fighting for democratic representation, killing some 15 and injuring some 700. The name Peterloo refers to the battle of Waterloo.

“There has never been a feature film about the Peterloo Massacre,” said Leigh. “The universal significance of this historic event becomes ever more relevant in our own turbulent times.”

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Additional financing comes from developer Film4, the BFI, and Lipsync. Cornerstone Films is handling international sales and distribution in Cannes.

Leigh is reunited on his 21st feature film with producer Georgina Lowe, cinematographer Dick Pope, production designer Suzy Davies, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, hair and makeup artist Christine Blundell, editor Jon Gregory and composer Gary Yershon. Gail Egan is executive producer.

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