EXCLUSIVE: Sir Phil Redmond is moving forward with his Grange Hill film adaption and filmmaker Sara Sugarman (Save the Cinema) has signed on to direct a story in part based on the character she played in the hit BBC kids show.
The film will be written by original series creator Redmond, with Sean Marley (The Almond and the Seahorse) and Celyn Jones (Six Minutes to Midnight) producing for Mad As Birds alongside Redmond’s production company Mersey Film. Phil and Alexis Redmond will EP. Redmond originally planned for the movie to launch this year and he said scripts are “pretty close.”
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Plot is being largely kept under wraps, but Redmond told Deadline that the story will, in part, be based on the character Jessica Samuels, who was the rebellious head of the Grange Hill student action group in the TV series. The idea was inspired by Sugarman, who played Samuels as an adolescent on the original show and reached out to Redmond to offer her directing services when she heard about the big-screen reboot.
“Sara reached out, and that lit a light bulb in my head,” Redmond said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I look beyond the main characters, which is obvious, and we’ll have them all there for nostalgia, but where did Jessica go?’.”
Redmond described Sugarman as a “great fit” and said her character’s growth will comprise one of the movie’s main themes.
Sugarman won’t necessarily reprise her role as Samuels in the pic, with the Vinyl filmmaker telling us: “I’ve been very strongly given my orders: I have to audition like everyone else. So that’s where we are with that.”
She did, however, confirm that the film will “definitely” feature appearances from multiple original cast members. The original featured the likes of Todd Carty, Sheila Chandra and Sean Maguire.
“It wouldn’t be Grange Hill without the Grange Hillers, and there will be some surprises,” she said.
Set in a fictional comprehensive school in North London, Grange Hill ran on the BBC from 1978 to 2008. It was considered groundbreaking for the way it depicted the reality of teenagers’ lives, touching on issues such as drug addiction, racism, death, and mental illness.
Redmond told Deadline that the film won’t shy away from similar social issues that shape the lives of schoolchildren today, including so-called culture war topics like social media dogpiling. He said he aims to create a “real cinema piece” with a theatrical release that can speak to adults about universal themes such as identity and community.
“We don’t want it to be like a lot of these things where they just take the characters, use the brand and throw something together. I wanted to think about how best we could revisit the show,” he said. “In many ways, the only place I could feel comfortable doing it now is the cinema.”
Touching on whether he is still able to accurately depict the lives of modern teenagers, the 73-year-old, also known for popular British shows Brookside and Hollyoaks, joked that he is a “great techie.”
“Back in the 90s, I was at the forefront of all this, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t do social media myself because I saw the future and thought, ‘I don’t want any part of that’,” he said. “I know how it works, but they’re only tools. The real conversations happen in real life. The sociology of life hasn’t changed.”
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