Amy Gadney, Joely Richardson
Working Title Films, the production company headed by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, was the driving force behind several successful films of the mid-1990s, including the Oscar-nominated "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994) and "Fargo" (1996). They may have left the ceremony without a statue each time but Working Title became established as the pre-eminent independent company in Britain. Bevan and Fellner have also established ongoing relations with such filmmakers as Hanif Kureishi, Mario Van Peebles, Tim Robbins and the Coen Brothers.
The New Zealand-born, British-educated Bevan broke into film and TV in 1983 when he formed a producing partnership with Sarah Radclyffe that eventually grew into Working Title Films in 1985. That same year, they produced Stephen Frears' "My Beautiful Laundrette" originally for Channel 4, but successful festival screenings led to its international release. The center to the story was the love affair between a young man of Pakistani descent and his long-time British friend also marked the screenwriting debut of Hanif Kureishi and catapulted Daniel Day-Lewis to stardom. Frears and Kureishi later collaborated on the controversial "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid" (1987), also produced under Working Title's auspices.
In 1988, Bevan and Radclyffe executive produced "A World Apart", the story of a girl and her relationship with her anti-apartheid activist mother in South Africa which won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award for Barbara Hershey. Working Title had its first flop in 1991 with "Drop Dead Fred" and shortly thereafter, Bevan and Radclyffe parted ways with Eric Fellner joining the company. That same year, the company produced "London Kills Me", the directorial debut of Hanif Kureishi. Into the 90s, Working Title was seen as sponsoring many films with a new energy, but little broad commercial appeal. They had art-house successes of varying degrees with "Bob Roberts" (1992), the directorial debut of Tim Robbins, and "Map of the Human Heart" (1993), directed by Vincent Ward. Bevan and Fellner served as executive producers of Mario Van Peebles' "Posse" (1993), which proved to be their most commercial "Hollywood" film to that date. After the disappointing "The Hudsucker Proxy" (1994) from the Coen brothers came the critical and box-office success of "Four Weddings and a Funeral". (The film earned in excess of $250 million worldwide and until 1997's "The Full Monty", held the record as the top grossing British film.) Budgets for Working Title films improved (up to $50 million) but it remains a British-based company with a Hollywood office and a work ethic very much away from the studio system.
Since the mid-90s, Bevan and Fellner have produced or executive produced a number of interesting films. "Panther", made by Mario and Melvin Van Peebles, examined the history of the Black Panther movement in the USA while "French Kiss" teamed Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in a disappointing romantic comedy "Moonlight and Valentino" (all 1995) showcased several strong females as well as marked the acting debut of rock star Jon Bon Jovi. That same year, Tim Robbins' "Dead Man Walking" proved a critical and commercial winner, earning a Best Actress Oscar for Susan Sarandon and a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Sean Penn and solidifying Working Title as a quality producer of independent film. The Coen brothers' wildly popular "Fargo" continued the company streak and Bevan and Fellner also executive produced the Coens' less successful "The Big Lebowski" (1998). The company faced an uncertain future, however, when its largest shareholder, PolyGram, announced in early 1998 that it was looking to sell its 75 percent stake.