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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Dave Doyle

New ITV drama to feature Jason Isaacs as Bristol-born Hollywood legend Cary Grant

One of Bristol’s most famous sons will be the subject of a new ITV drama starring Jason Isaacs. The Cary Grant biopic is titled Archie and will premiere on a brand new streaming service called ITVX.

Cary Grant was one of the most famous and successful leading men in the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema – but he was born Archibald Alec Leach in Bristol, during 1904. The new four-part series will explore Grant’s emigration to America, early forays in film and the three-decade acting career which resulted.

Grant faced extreme poverty, had to process his father’s adultery and experienced the loss of his older brother, John. He joined a music hall act called the Bob Pender Troupe as a stilt walker, touring to America and deciding to stay.

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A chance meeting with the comedian George Burns gave him a leg up into Hollywood and a contract with a film studio, which encouraged him to adopt a stage name. But happiness did not follow fame and by 1961, when he was living in Los Angeles, Grant was deeply depressed and misusing LSD.

Cary Grant (middle) was one of the most famous faces of 1940s Hollywood cinema. (Public domain)

Liverpool-born Isaacs is a well established star of stage and screen, with credits including Peter Pan (2003), Green Zone (2010) and The Death of Stalin (2017). In a career spanning four decades has been nominated for Golden Globes, Baftas and Emmys.

Isaacs said of the role: “There was only one Cary Grant and I’d never be foolish enough to try to step into his iconic shoes. Archie Leach, on the other hand, couldn’t be further from the character he invented to save himself.”

The project by ITV Studios and BritBox International will be directed by Paul Andrew Williams and penned by Bafta-winning screenwriter Jeff Pope.

Pope’s previous works include Pierrepoint and Philomena , dramatising the lives of executioner Albert Pierrepoint and adoption campaigner Philomena Lee respectively. Grant’s daughter Jennifer and ex-wife Dyan Cannon – both of whom were extensively interviewed by Pope – have approved the project and also serve as executive producers.

A statue of Hollywood actor Cary Grant in Bristol, where he was born. (Public domain)

Jennifer Grant said: “My father was an extremely private man so naturally, when Jeff Pope approached me with the idea to write dad’s life story, I was trepidatious at best. Jeff’s thoughtfully intelligent understanding of dad’s boyhood won me over.

“My father’s formative years as Archie Leach in Bristol, England, and the extraordinary challenges he faced, lie at the heart of Archie. Cary Grant is emblematic of charm, wit and grace, but unknown to most are the enormous challenges he overcame to create himself.”

Isaacs added: “Jeff’s brilliant scripts bring to life his relentless struggle to escape the demons that plagued him, his obsessive need for control, his fears, his weaknesses, his loves and his losses. It’s the story of a man, not a legend, and those are shoes I can’t wait to walk in.”

Further details of casting are set to be announced closer to the start of filming. Archie will premiere on new streaming service ITVX, which launches later this year. The drama will air on ITV several months later.

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