Paddington film franchise is a feel-good, family romp with a triumph of good over evil plot. But there is one fly in the ointment. Mr Harvey Weinstein. He is the sort of big baddie the marmalade chomping bear from Peru would delight in bringing crashing down to earth after the mountain of sexual harassment and assault allegations against the movie mogul.
Producer David Heyman is uncomfortable discussing business in the chaotic haze of what he describes as “abhorrent” acts. “What Harvey Weinstein did is obviously abhorrent. Hopefully the revelations and the conversation we are all engaged with now will lead to a tide of change in the entertainment industry and beyond,” he explains.
Heyman says that his hope is that ultimately, “The Weinstein Company name is nowhere near Paddington 2.” Speaking in the wake of the scandal that has engulfed the movie studios contracted to distribute Paddington 2 in North America on its January 2018 release, he told Deadline Hollywood about concerted efforts to sever all business ties with The Weinstein Company.
The respected director whose credits include Harry Potter and Gravity explains the Weinstein brothers “had absolutely nothing to do with the financing or making of this film”. The company was only responsible for its North American distribution under the TWC-Dimension label overseen by Harvey’s brother Bob.
ESCAPING WEINSTEIN SCANDAL
Heyman is frustrated about the ‘guilty by association’ sentiments swirling around the disgraced Hollywood director saying “It’s very sad and deeply frustrating that Paddington, who’s been around for more than 50 years, and is always looking for the good in people, and has such a generous, warm-hearted spirit could have any association” with the ongoing scandal.
His efforts would not have been helped with Bob Weinstein relying on Paddington 2’s bankability to rescue the fast-sinking Weinstein ship. The film franchise has had box office success with the first Paddington movie released in 2014 grossing $192m worldwide which included $62m in the UK and $76m in the US making it the highest grossing non-US studio family title of all time. Bob recently allayed fears collaborators and investors were disowning the company boasting “I have Paddington 2, Paddington 3 is coming two years later”.
He told the Hollywood Reporter: “Those bankers, they look at my slate and they know that I’ve made them money for many, many years. And lately I have had a cold hand, there is no two ways about it, on the Dimension side, but I have a f****n’ great slate coming up and they’re aware of it. “And this is a business where all the sudden you walk into Stephen King’s It one day. And things change. It is that kind of business. I have Six Billion Dollar Man, I’m closing a deal on it. I have Paddington 2, Paddington 3 is coming two years later.”
BOX OFFICE FEARS
Heyman is currently negotiating with Colony Capital — which recently threw TWC a cash lifeline — to consider alternative US distributors. He says: “I’ve received calls from many distributors and I know Studiocanal and Colony Capital have too. I’m sure all options will be explored. The Paddington franchise is one of the few remaining valuable assets in the TWC portfolio and it will make business sense for them to let it go to a distributor or studio untainted by any whiff from the unravelling scandal.
The movie is wholly financed by Studiocanal who also own the intellectual rights. It is releasing Paddington 2 in its territories beginning in the UK on November 10 in time for the lucrative festive Christmas and new year season. It is thought the Weinstein association is unlikely to hinder the film’s box office appeal in Britain and Europe but the producers are not leaving anything to chance in the age of social media where corporate reputations can be shredded overnight.
The sequel sees Paul King return to direct from a script he co-wrote with Simon Farnaby. This time around, the marmalade-loving bear from darkest Peru gets mixed up in a new adventure while searching for the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. Ben Whishaw has returned to voice the titular mischief-maker with other returning cast members Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi and Jim Broadbent. Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson are also on the cast while Joanna Lumley and Richard Ayoade have cameos.
BOND, MICHAEL BOND
It was while working as a BBC cameraman in 1956 that late Michael Bond alighted on the idea of writing a book after spotting a small bear in a Paddington shop window. It became a global children’s classic. Paddington 2 was filmed on location in Paddington, Portobello Road and other locations across west London, it is as much a recogniseable local flick as much as an international blockbuster. He was made a Commander of the British Empire and died this year.