BAFTA-nominated filmmakers Peter Middleton and James Spinney (Notes on Blindness) have wrapped principal photography on their sophomore feature-length documentary, Chasing Chaplin (working title).
The film, which charts artist and entertainer Charlie Chaplin’s meteoric rise to fame in his own words, is now ready for editing, where newly shot dramatic scenes will combine with previously unknown material.
The project weaves together an intimate portrait of one of cinema’s most iconic stars via Chaplin’s personal and creative archives, with unseen outtakes and newly unearthed audio recordings. The latter of these sources includes a four-day interview between Chaplin and Life magazine reporter Richard Meryman in 1966, when the star was several years into his self-imposed exile in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
Chasing Chaplin also features dramatic renderings filmed at Chaplin’s World by Grévin, the Charlie Chaplin museum, housed since 2016 in the famous Manoir de Ban where Chaplin lived for 25 years.
“We experienced a kind of time travel whilst re-staging Meryman’s unique encounter with Chaplin in the same rooms that the interview was recorded half a century ago,” said Middleton and Spinney in a statement. “With careful attention to detail, the cast and crew have created a vivid dramatic frame for the film, in which Chaplin tells his remarkable life story.”
The film is a Passion Pictures, Archer’s Mark and Smaller Biggie production, in association with Fee Fie Foe. It is produced by John Battsek of Passion Pictures; Mike Brett of Archer’s Mark; and Ben Limberg of Smaller Biggie.
The film also received funding by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, Film4 and Showtime. The filmmakers were also granted access to Chaplin’s extensive film and photographic archives, as licensed by Roy Export, the managing entity of the Chaplin estate, and MK2, holder of the worldwide distribution rights to the Roy Export-owned Chaplin films.
Altitude Film Sales is handling international rights for the film and will be selling the project at Cannes. Premium cable network Showtime has North American rights. Altitude has also acquired distribution rights to the film for the UK and Ireland.
“We are all acutely aware of the responsibility we have placed on ourselves in taking on the extraordinary story of Charlie Chaplin,” added Passion’s Battsek. “With Pete and James’s approach of seamlessly blending historical and unseen footage with originally shot material we are extremely excited at the prospect of presenting a new and unique approach to the Chaplin story to a worldwide audience.”
Photo credit: Charlie Chaplin, 1917, © Roy Export Co Ltd