`Notting Hill' team searches for another record breaker

MEMBERS OF the team behind Notting Hill, which this week became the most successful British movie ever, are hoping to emulate its success with an assortment of new projects.

Lottery-funded DNA films, co-chaired by Duncan Kenworthy, Notting Hill's producer, is to start shooting a black comedy in Glasgow. Night Of The Creatures, written by Simon Donald, a Scottish playwright, will star Rachel Weisz.

Roger Michell, the director of Notting Hill, is to direct the film of the best-selling novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin. American actor Nicolas Cage is being considered for the lead role, which will not prevent the film being classified as British under new government rules announced yesterday.

Working Title, the production company behind Notting Hill, is also behind Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Richard Curtis, the scriptwriter for Notting Hill, is working with Rowan Atkinson on a half-hour film of Blackadder, to be shown at Skyscape in the Millennium Dome.

Notting Hill, which cost pounds 35m to make, became the biggest-grossing British movie ever this week. It has now taken pounds 168m around the world, pushing it past the pounds 164.5m total for Four Weddings and a Funeral, made by the same team, according to figures compiled by Screen International.

In the UK, the film has taken around pounds 30m, behind The Full Monty, the most successful home-grown film at the British box office with takings of pounds 52m.

"I don't think Notting Hill will reach the same levels that The Full Monty managed in this country," said Mary Scott, Screen International's box office editor. "But it's still in the top 10 after 14 weeks on release."

However, Ian Nathan editor of the film magazine Empire was sceptical of Notting Hill's claim to be a British film. "You've got to look where the money goes to and that's Universal, an American company."

But Notting Hill is "British" according to a new Government definition which came into force yesterday and will be used to determine which projects are eligible for tax exemptions.

The main criteria for being a British film will now be whether at least 70 per cent of the budget was spent in the UK. Film makers must also spend that proportion of their budget for labour on EU and Commonwealth citizens, although, the rules do take into account the need, sometimes, to employ expensive foreign talent.

Previously, films could be "British" even though they were largely shot outside the UK, while others were disbarred for using too much music recorded abroad. Little Voice, starring Britons Jane Horrocks, Brenda Blethyn, Michael Caine and Ewan MacGregor, fell foul of this rule.

Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral qualify as British under both the new and old criteria.

The Best of British

Amount grossed worldwide

1 Notting Hill: $262m(pounds 168m)

2 Four Weddings and a Funeral: $256.5m (pounds 165m)

3 The Full Monty: $250m (pounds 160m)

4 Bean: $234m (pounds 150m)

5 Spiceworld: $78m (pounds 50m)

6 Trainspotting: $74.3m

(pounds 48m)

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