ITV commissions Cary Grant biopic, Archie, to premiere on ITVX

cary grant biopic itvx

The life of Hollywood’s greatest leading man, Cary Grant, is to be depicted in a four-part drama, Archie, written by award winning screenwriter, Jeff Pope, and starring Jason Isaacs in the leading role.

Pope is known for writing critically acclaimed dramas The Widower, Mrs Biggs, A Confession and the Oscar nominated films Philomena and Stan & Ollie.

Cary Grant drama

The drama will be produced by ITV Studios, with BritBox International as co-production partners, and with the blessing of Cary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, and ex-wife Dyan Cannon. 

Amongst many sources, Jeff has interviewed both women extensively. Cannon and Grant are Executive Producers on the drama.

Archie will premiere on ITV’s new, free streaming service, ITVX, which launches later this year. The drama will air on ITV months later.

Story of Archie Leach

Born in Bristol, England in 1904, to parents Elsie and Elias, Archie narrates the story of a young Archibald Alexander Leach’s troubled childhood and how extreme poverty, his father’s adultery and the loss of his older brother, John, tore the family apart and sent his loving mother into a downward spiral of grief and depression.

Pope’s scripts reveal how deceit, cruelty and one, overpowering lie shaped Archie’s life.

At 14 he auditioned for the music hall act, the Bob Pender Troupe, a band of acrobats, stilt walkers, clown and comedians after seeing them perform at the Bristol Hippodrome.

Lean and athletic, he learned the art of stilt walking, and when the troupe went on tour to the US, teenage Archie was intoxicated by the land of opportunity. 

Believing he had no family to return to in the UK, he decided to stay in the US to try to make his way in showbusiness.

With no thoughts of acting, a chance meeting with the comedian George Burns helped him find his first footing on the acting ladder and a contract with a movie studio who felt he needed to change his name, and Cary Grant was born.

“There was only one Cary Grant and I’d never be foolish enough to try to step into his iconic shoes” said Isaacs.

“ Archie Leach, on the other hand, couldn’t be further from the character he invented to save himself. 

“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.”

Dyan Cannon said: “Cary Grant touched the world with his charm, his grace and enduring vivacity, but few knew Archie Leach, the man I was fortunate to know intimately and marry. 

“I’m so grateful Jeff Pope has captured him so brilliantly on the page, and that Jason Isaacs will do the same on screen!”

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.”

Bristol boy

Commenting on the project, Pope said: “As with many of my projects, I started at the end and worked backwards. I discovered that, at the height of his fame, Cary Grant retired to look after his young daughter. 

“Intrigued, I started to dig into why he had become a single father. What had happened? 

“My journey led me to Bristol, and a young boy called Archie Leach. Cary Grant became one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century, beloved by presidents and paupers.

“The key to everything, lay in his childhood.”

Paul Andrew Williams, who has previously worked with Pope on A Confession, will direct the series.

Wiliams’ credits also include London to Brighton, Song for Marion and Murdered for Being Different.

Rebecca Hodgson (Sherwood, The Irregulars, Deep Water, The Road to Coronation Street) will produce Archie.

Archie has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Drama, Polly Hill. Hill will oversee production of the drama for ITVX.

Hill said: “Jeff’s scripts beautifully tell the story of Archie, the Bristol boy who was abandoned by his father and ran away to Hollywood, where remarkably he transformed and became Cary Grant.

“His story is emotional and surprising and Jeff’s scripts brilliantly explore the man behind the Hollywood legend who will be played by the amazing Jason Isaacs. 

“I am delighted to be working with Jeff and director Paul Andrew Williams once again on what will be a real treat for ITVX audiences.”

Further details of casting will be announced closer to filming commencing.

ITV Studios will be responsible for the international distribution of Archie.