David Frankel, who has directed a host of popular dramatic comedies in recent years, including MARLEY & ME, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and HOPE SPRINGS, had first been sent the script in late 2008 and had loved the story and its themes. “I had been a big YouTube fan of Paul Potts,” he explains. “Someone sent me the clip and I fell in love with him and had downloaded his recording of ‘Nessun Dorma’ and sent it to everyone I knew. I had always thought that a comedy set in the world of opera would be intriguing, because it’s this beautiful world that doesn’t get explored in the movies. And then here was this script that almost exactly combined these two ideas.”
Producer Mike Menchel cites Frankel’s interest as a pivotal moment in ONE CHANCE’s journey to the big screen. “It’s not every day that you get a filmmaker as talented as David involved in a smaller, offbeat project like this,” he notes. “He’s absolutely passionate about this material and this story.” Partnering with Harvey Weinstein was also instrumental, with the Oscar-winning producer bringing a similar level of passion to the Potts biopic. “He’s a game-changer,” says Menchel. “He saw what we saw in it and he said, ‘I’m making this by hook or by crook.’ That’s when the train pulled out of the station.”
Says Harvey Weinstein, “I am incredibly happy to be a part of this project. This was one of those screenplays I immediately fell in love with, and it’s exciting to see it brought to life with David Frankel and James Corden.”
While citing the Rocky references himself, Frankel also viewed ONE CHANCE as a Cinderella story about a downtrodden man with nothing but talent who magically finds a way to share it with the world…but not before encountering a string of funny/sad happenings to arrive at that place. The director brought a vision to the film that might not have been immediately apparent on the page, a desire to widen the scope of a narrative that could easily be told on a smaller scale without losing the story’s intimacy or changing its fundamental nature as a portrait of a very ordinary man.
In a serendipitous bit of casting, Weinstein suggested hiring a British actor who was then taking the theatre world by storm in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’: James Corden. The acclaimed National Theatre production, directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner, had transferred to London’s West End and then onto Broadway, where it played for six months at the Music Box Theatre to giddy audiences, massive acclaim and a nightly celebrity turnout.
When Menchel bumped into Weinstein at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, while casting discussions were underway about who was going to portray Paul Potts, Harvey suggested that his counterpart go see ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ at London’s Adelphi Theatre, where Richard Bean’s smash-hit play had transferred after its initial three-month run at the National. “Ten minutes into the play, I literally stood up and said, ‘Harvey Weinstein is right! This is the guy,’” says Menchel. “You saw the talent, you saw the similarities, you saw not just the humor but also the heart. He just had it. I went back to Harvey and said, ‘Once again, you are right.’”
Frankel has always wanted to make a film that incorporated opera into its storyline. The American director has a personal connection: his father trained to sing opera when he was a teenager. “He has a beautiful tenor voice to this day and has always loved opera,” says Frankel. In his youth, his parents took him to see all the classics. “I had an education; I have a sense of the great composers but I couldn’t tell you the plot of Figaro,” he laughs. “I just learned the plot of Aida the other day while we were shooting a scene about it, and it’s so convoluted I can’t even remember it now. But going into this movie, I didn’t appreciate how much I would fall in love with the arias. The music is so beautiful and part of the great fun of making this movie is getting to share that.”
“I like that this story manages to be both sweet and funny in equal measure,” says Frankel. “Those are two adjectives that I’d love to see used to describe all my movies. It has elements of a fable and yet it happened in real life.”
From THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA to MARLEY & ME to HOPE SPRINGS, Frankel brings a consistent tone to the stories he tells and feels just as comfortable with the belly laughs and comic sensibility in a narrative arc as he does delivering the knock-out emotional blow. His films are full of heart and he’s not afraid to get sentimental – a dirty word in some people’s eyes, but handled sublimely by Frankel. He was the perfect man to direct Potts’ story and to get the optimum performance from Corden.
“The humor in David’s films is never cruel,” observes Thykier. “You might laugh at the circumstances Paul finds himself in and some of the things that happen to him, but you’re never laughing at Paul in this film. The humor rises out of the drama, and you can recognize that from David’s previous films.”
Frankel and Corden collaborated together to finesse Zackham’s script. As the director observes, “James is a brilliant writer himself and has phenomenal instincts about drama and comedy.” He credits Corden with thinking up a creative solution for introducing Potts’ family into the story that would rely on music rather than dialogue. “It’s Chaplin-esque,” Frankel says. “It takes all the words away and makes something that could have been prosaic really extraordinary. He had those instincts all the way through.”
“I’ve loved working with David,” echoes Corden. “When I asked him why he wanted to make the film, he said that he was really interested in people’s hidden talents. He’s so passionate about this story.” Corden’s co-star Alexandra Roach also found herself smitten by Frankel and the laid-back, all- encouraging atmosphere that he cultivates on his sets. And she couldn’t believe that she was getting to work with the director of one of her all-time favorite films. “I cried so much at the end of MARLEY & ME,” she laughs. “There’s a magic with his films that he’s able to get the audience to feel exactly what he wants them to feel at a specific time. It’s my first leading role in a feature film and quite a big milestone for me as an actress, and he made me feel so comfortable. Any nerves I felt coming in completely evaporated because he is so supportive and wonderful. He let me fly.”
“ONE CHANCE” is released and distributed by CAPTIVE CINEMA.
SHOWING NOVEMBER 5.
In theatres …NATIONWIDE!