The Weinstein Company with the support of the Republic of Botswana will begin production on July 9th in Botswana on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, based on Alexander McCall Smith’s global best selling series of the same name. This marks the first time a major movie will be filmed in its entirety in Botswana and the Republic of Botswana has made a significant investment in the production. Directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain, The English Patient), from a script by Minghella and Academy Award nominee Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), the event movie for TV will go on to become an ongoing television series. The project is being produced by Academy Award winning filmmaker Sydney Pollack, Timothy Bricknell (Cold Mountain) for Mirage Productions along with Amy Moore. The announcement was made today by Harvey Weinstein, Co-Chairman of The Weinstein Company.
TWC and Mirage have assembled a dynamic cast of diverse and talented actors to bring McCall Smith’s enchanting characters to life. Grammy Award winning artist Jill Scott will star as Precious Ramotswe, the series heroine who has become one of the most beloved characters in international contemporary fiction. Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) will play Precious quirky secretary Mma Makutsi and Lucian Msamati will play Mma Ramotswe’s devoted suitor JLB Matekoni. They will be joined by David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland), Idris Elba (28 Weeks Later, The Wire), Colin Salmon (Die Another Day, Match Point) and Tony Award Winners Winston Ntshona and John Kani.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a poignant and passionate story chronicling the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the traditionally built, eminently sensible and wise proprietor of the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana, as she investigates cases, helps people solve problems in their lives, and falls in love with the highly respectable owner of a local garage.
“The Government of Botswana and indeed the people of Botswana are delighted to have this opportunity which will certainly enhance our reputation and hard work to the international community. Over the years, we have emphasized upon ourselves as individuals and indeed collectively as a nation, to live by the very values that are at the epicenter of the building of the nation of Botswana. These values have now been formally enshrined in our nation vision, which amongst other pillars aims to build a prosperous and compassionate nation. We are therefore more proud than ever, to realize that internationally acclaimed writers like Alexander McCall Smith and The Weinstein Company have found it necessary to share them with the rest of the world. Africa, for the first time will be shown in its true warmth and welcoming spirit. My Government is very proud to be in partnership with this team, and are certain the partnership will continue for many years to come as it could help kick start a film industry in our country,” said the Honorable Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Onkokame Kitso Mokaila.
Anthony Minghella stated, “Moving into preproduction on The No 1. Ladies Detective Agency is the culmination of many years of work. We have assembled a fantastic cast of African and International actors who share the same passion to bring to life the gallery of wonderful characters created by Alexander McCall Smith. It was crucial for all of the production team that we film in Botswana; in many ways the novels are a celebration of a place. Our partnership with the Republic means we can create a unique world featuring Botswana’s extraordinary landscapes. But beyond the beauty of the country is the opportunity – in this film and in the television series that will follow – to tell stories from Africa about what’s good about Africa. In the process we hope that Mma Ramotswe and her friends become as irresistible and delightful on screen as they have been for millions of readers.”
Sydney Pollack stated, “We’re extremely excited here at Mirage to be producing this magical, and very wry and wise material. It’s particularly exciting to have the opportunity to make it in Botswana where Alexander McCall Smith envisioned it.”
Harvey Weinstein stated, “Like all fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s magisterial books, I became enchanted with the wonders and charms of Botswana. As McCall Smith described it, Botswana is one of the most incredible countries in Africa – filled with inspiring landscapes, beautiful landmarks, diverse wildlife and wonderful people. We are thrilled to be working with the Republic of Botswana, Anthony Minghella, Richard Curtis, Sydney Pollack and Amy Moore to showcase the natural delights of this remarkable country and to bring McCall Smith’s dynamic stories to audiences around the world.”
Botswana, famous for the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari Game Reserve, is one of Africa’s true success stories. It is one of the finest places on the planet to observe wildlife, and its capital, Gaborone – the fastest growing city on the continent – is home to the heroine of Alexander McCall Smith’s incredibly successful, best selling book series. Precious Ramotswe has become one of the most loved characters in international contemporary fiction and the books have served to celebrate the gentleness and decency of this very special country.
Colin Vaines, Executive Vice President of European Production and Development, will oversee the project on behalf of The Weinstein Company. Film Afrika is supporting the production in Southern Africa and will be providing location services.
Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Mirage have a long-standing relationship beginning with their collaboration in 1998 on Sliding Doors and have enjoyed tremendous success over the years on projects such as the Academy Award winner for Best Picture The English Patient and the Academy Award winning Cold Mountain as well as Academy Award nominees The Talented Mr. Ripley, Heaven, Iris and The Quiet American. The companies also partnered together on Blow Dry and Birthday Girl. TWC recently renewed its first look deal with Mirage and are also currently working on I Don’t Know How She Does It, a comedy based on Allison Pearson’s best-selling novel of the same name, written by Aline Brosh McKenna and will be directed by Academy Award winner David Frankel, the duo behind the smash hit The Devil Wears Prada; The Amulet of Samarkand, based on the first novel in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy, adapted by Academy Award nominee Hossein Amini; The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, based on a novel by Liz Jensen and will be written and directed by Minghella; and The Reader, a haunting love story based on the Bernard Schlink novel of the same name.
Mirage was formed more than 20 years ago by Sydney Pollack. Since 2001 he has shared the company with Anthony Minghella. Mirage has been responsible for more than 24 movies, often focusing on the work of writer-directors and international film-makers, among them Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility), Phillip Noyce (Quiet American, Catch A Fire), Steve Klovis (Fabulous Baker Boys), Richard Eyre (Iris), Tom Tykwer (Heaven) and recently, Kenny Lonerghan (Margaret) and Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton). It has also produced most of Pollack and Minghella’s own movies, including Out of Africa, The Firm, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, The Interpreter and Breaking and Entering.
The Weinstein Company (TWC) was created by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the brothers who founded Miramax Films Corporation in 1979. TWC is a multi-media company that officially launched on October 1, 2005. Dimension Films, the genre label that was founded in 1993 by Bob Weinstein, is also included under the TWC banner.
Upcoming films to be released by The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films include: the romantic comedy Dedication starring Billy Crudup and Mandy Moore; the heartfelt drama Grace Is Gone starring John Cusack; and Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights starring Norah Jones. Upcoming Weinstein Company films to be domestically distributed in theaters by MGM include The Nanny Diaries, based on the NY Times No. 1 best-selling satirical comedy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Paul Giamatti; and Rob Zombie’s reinvention of Halloween starring Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif.