Full Monty man follows up with Monty Pylon

Vanessa Thorpe on Simon Beaufoy's new film - a romance set amid electricity cables
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The Independent Online
LOVE scenes set at the top of a large metal superstructure are not so unusual as long as we are talking about the Eiffel Tower. But an electricity pylon in Yorkshire is the romantic location in a British film at the centre of a furious distribution rights auction in Hollywood.

The biggest players in the American film business have been vying for the rights to Among Giants, written by Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter behind the phenomenal success of The Full Monty.

His new film tells of an unlikely love triangle involving three pylon painters and it is confidently expected to be one of the most successful and critically-acclaimed releases of the year.

This weekend 20th Century Fox were able to confirm that they have beaten off their biggest rivals at auction and will distribute the film in the US and in all English-speaking countries.

The deal was done and dusted only a few days after the first industry screening of the movie at the American Film Market.

"The film stood out head and tails above others," said Tony Safford, Senior Vice-President of Acquisition at Fox. "There was a very competitive environment around it because it is such a thoroughly charming and unique love story.

"It is very hard to project what kind of business it will do, but then we had no idea that The Full Monty would be quite the success it proved."

The Full Monty was produced by Fox subsidiary Searchlight and has so far grossed more than pounds 120m worldwide at the box office, making it one of the most profitable films of all time. It has taken well over pounds 20m in both Britain and America.

For Simon Beaufoy, who is nominated for an Oscar and who won the British film critics Screenwriter of the Year Award on Thursday night, news of the distribution deal for Among Giants has ended weeks of nervous anticipation.

"I was really worried about how it would go down in Hollywood because of all the high expectations after The Full Monty," he said.

Distributors, he feared, would come to the screening expecting a movie with a similarly upbeat message.

"But it was great. The room was entirely silent throughout the film and representatives of all the big distributors came up to me immediately after the screening. Several of them even said how moved they had been."

His script for Among Giants was actually completed well before Beaufoy was asked to write producer Umberto Pasolini's film about unemployed steelworkers in Sheffield. What is more, Among Giants was his first attempt at a feature-length script. Beaufoy stresses that it was fully "optioned" before anyone had ever heard of The Full Monty.

"This is the script that is closest to my heart," he said. "It is a different, a more serious film, than The Full Monty."

Yet, like The Full Monty, Among Giants tells of a gang of unemployed men from Sheffield forced to work in the black economy. This time they are all enthusiastic climbers who decide to take on a cash-in-hand job painting the electricity pylons which stride across the Yorkshire moors.

"I have been obsessed with pylons for a very long time," Beaufoy explains. "But because of the safety problems we weren't sure if we would be able to film on them until the very last minute."

The film is produced by Stephen Garrett at the British independent production company Kudos and stars Pete Postlethwaite, best known for his roles in Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects and The Name of the Father. Rachel Griffiths, from Muriel's Wedding, plays the female lead, an Australian back-packer.

"I think the scenes on the pylons feel 'captured' rather than set up," Beaufoy said of the finished product.

The cast and crew, he added, both had to tackle their own fear of heights during filming.

"Pete Postlethwaite was very fit though and by the end of filming he was happy to sit right at the top of the pylon."

Among Giants, which Beaufoy admits has autobiographical elements, is due to open in the autumn. Beaufoy's future screen projects include the development of a script about competition hairdressing.

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