Philomena and Stan & Ollie writer Jeff Pope is writing and exec producing Archie, named after Grant’s birthname Archibald Alexander Leach. ITV Studios is producing and the four-parter will be a flagship premiere on soon-to-launch streamer ITVX.
Grant is widely recognized as one of Hollywood’s leading men, gaining a reputation for his transatlantic accent, sense of comic timing and handsome, debonair demeanor over more than 70 films in a decades-long mid-twentieth century career.
He was twice nominated for an Academy Award, in Penny Serenade and None but the Lonely Heart, and worked with the biggest stars of the day including Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly and Doris Day.
Archie will start with his birth in Bristol in 1904 and tell the story of a childhood spent in extreme poverty, dealing with his father’s adultery and the loss of older brother John. At 14, he joined music hall act the Bob Pender Troupe and moved to the U.S. and, soon after, Cary Grant was born.
The show will intercut scenes from 1961 when, at the height of his fame, Grant was desperately unhappy in his private life after two failed marriages. Grant then began wooing TV star Dyan Cannon, who was 30 years his junior and didn’t immediately fall for his charms. He married her in 1965 and retired from film acting one year later.
“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.”
Isaacs is a huge coup for ITV, which has already secured his fellow Harry Potter star Helena Bonham Carter to lead similar showbiz biopic Nolly from Russell T Davies, with both appearing to be setting the tone for what’s to come on ITVX.
Isaacs could most recently be seen in the latest season of Netflix’s Sex Education along with Anthony Fabian feature Mrs Harris Goes to Paris. He is currently filming A Winter’s Journey from Alex Helfrecht alongside John Malkovich, in which he plays a lovelorn poet undertaking a hazardous journey.
Pope said Archie followed the pattern of many of his scripts that “start at the end and work backwards.”
“Cary Grant became one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century, beloved by presidents and paupers,” he added. “The key to everything, lay in his childhood.”
Grant’s daughter Jennifer Grant and former wife Cannon both gave Archie their blessing, describing Pope’s script as “intelligent, understanding” and “capturing him so brilliantly.”
ITV Head of Drama Polly Hill added: “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.
Isaacs is repped by Independent Talent Group, The Gersh Agency and Silver Lining Entertainment.