Andrew Garfield To Star As Richard Branson In ‘Hot Air’ Limited Series; David Leitch To Direct For Universal Int’l Studios

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EXCLUSIVE: Andrew Garfield, who just landed his first Emmy nomination for FX limited series Under the Banner of Heaven, is headlining another limited series project, Hot Air, which is heating up the streaming marketplace. Garfield is set to portray Richard Branson in the project about the famous British entrepreneur, which I hear is in a competitive situation with multiple major platforms in the running. It comes from Universal International Studios, with Deadpool 2 helmer David Leitch set to direct, sources said.

Written by Jon Croker (Paddington 2), the six-part Hot Air is based on the book “Dirty Tricks” by award-winning investigative journalist Martyn Gregory. It tells the story of billionaire Branson and the fascinating, outrageous rise of Virgin Airways.

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. - Credit: GI
. - Credit: GI

GI

Branson launched Virgin Atlantic in 1984 with one leased airplane. By 1990, the company started to threaten British Airways’ dominance in the UK market after getting landing slots at London Heathrow Airport. In response, BA launched a “dirty tricks” campaign, with its staffers using passenger records and impersonating Virgin employees to try to gain inside information on the upstart competitor and persuade Virgin customers to switch to BA.

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Tipped off by a BA insider, Branson complained to the European Commission about BA’s tactics. In response, BA created “Operation Barbara,” planting fabricated negative media stories about Virgin Atlantic. Branson sued, and the high-profile case was settled on the eve of the trial, with BA apologizing and paying Virgin’s legal costs plus damages.

Branson continued to grow the airline, one of dozens of business in his portfolio. In 1999, he sold a 49% stake to Singapore Airlines on over GBP1.2 billion valuation.

Croker and Garfield executive produce with 87North (Leitch, Kelly McCormick and Dan Seligmann) and UK-based Two&Two (Babak Anvari and Lucan Toh); StoryFirst (Michael Grade, Peter Gerwe, and Ivan Dunleavy). Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio group, is the studio.

Garfield pulled off the rare feat of landing an Oscar and Emmy nominations in the same year, for tick, tick… BOOM! (his second Oscar nom), and Under the Banner Of Heaven, respectively. He recently reprised his Spider-Man role in the latest installment of the superhero franchise, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and also starred in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, which earned Jessica Chastain an Oscar. He is repped by CAA and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.

Leitch, who produced and co-directed John Wick, also directed Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. He most recently directed and produced the upcoming Bullet Train, starring Brad Pitt. He is repped by CAA and Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole.

Croker, who is writing Skandar And The Unicorn Thief for Sony, is repped by CAA, Grandview, Independent talent Group and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.

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