Most people know Cary Grant as the debonair romantic lead of such films as His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby or the famous scene of him chased by an airplane in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. But the British-American actor, born Archibald Alec Leach in January 1904, was a scholarship child who pulled himself out of working-class poverty by getting into vaudeville, training with The Pender Troupe, which later became famous for his having been in it. He arrived with a perfect transatlantic accent just as Hollywood transitioned to talkies and managed to land a few perfect roles that vaulted him to the top of the studio system.
Now, ITV and BritBox are collaborating on a brand new biopic series deep diving into the long career of Grant, which peaked multiple times from 1937 to 1959. Entitled Archie, the four-part series will trace Grant's career starting with his poverty-stricken roots in Bristol at the end of the Edwardian era through to his final years in Hollywood in the late 1960s. In a casting coup, the series has landed Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter) to play the series' titular leading man. The series is being adapted for television by screenwriter Jeff Pope (A Confession) reteaming with director Paul Andrew Williams (London to Brighton).
According to the ITV press release, Pope has secured the blessings of Grant's fourth wife Dyan Cannon (he was married five times over his life), and their daughter, Grant's only child, Jennifer Grant. Both serve as Executive Producers on the series, giving Pope unprecedented access and interviews to assemble a complete picture of the actor's life. (Grant's first three wives, Virginia Cherrill, Barbara Hutton, and Betsy Drake, have all passed. His final wife, Barabra Harris, is still alive and recently participated in the 2017 documentary, Becoming Cary Grant.)
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 his older brother John. At 14, he joined the 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.
The project has just been announced, so no other actors are attached to the project as yet. However, Isaacs clearly feels the presence of one actor: the one he is portraying. In a statement, he said "There was only one Cary Grant and I'd never be foolish enough to try to step into his iconic shoes. Archie Leach, on the other hand, couldn't be further from the character he invented to save himself. Jeff's brilliant scripts bring to life his relentless struggle to escape the demons that plagued him, his obsessive need for control, his fears, his weaknesses, his loves, and his losses. It's the story of a man, not a legend, and those are shoes I can't wait to walk in."
Archie does not yet have a release date, but ITV plans for it to arrive on ITVX in the U.K. before the end of 2022. It will follow on ITV linear in early 2023, and is expected to land on BritBox here in the states.