The Personal History of David Copperfield

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The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Personal History of David Copperfield poster.jpg
British theatrical release poster
Directed byArmando Iannucci
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onDavid Copperfield
by Charles Dickens
Music byChristopher Willis
CinematographyZac Nicholson
Edited by
Distributed by
Release date
  • 5 September 2019 (2019-09-05) (TIFF)[1]
  • 24 January 2020 (2020-01-24) (United Kingdom)
  • 28 August 2020 (2020-08-28) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States[3]
Budget$15.6 million[4]
Box office$14 million[5][6]

The Personal History of David Copperfield is a 2019 comedy-drama film written and directed by Armando Iannucci, based on the 1850 Victorian era novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It stars Dev Patel as the title character, and Aneurin Barnard, Peter Capaldi, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Rosalind Eleazar, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Paul Whitehouse.

The world premiere was at the Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2019. It was theatrically released in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2020 by Lionsgate UK and in the United States on 28 August 2020 by Searchlight Pictures.[7]


The life of David Copperfield is chronicled from his birth to now. David has an idyllic life and is taken to visit the family of his nanny Peggoty (Daisy May Cooper) in their boat house in Yarmouth. When he returns, his young and widowed mother Clara (Morfydd Clark) has married the sinister and cruel Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd), who beats the boy. The abused David Copperfield (Dev Patel) is sent to work in Murdstone's factory where he lodges with Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and his family, who are pursued by their creditors. After being told of his mother's death and funeral, David escapes from his life of drudgery and finds his wealthy aunt Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton) and her lodger, the eccentric Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). After troubling problems with Steerforth (Aneurin Barnard) and Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw), Betsey Trotwood finances David's ambition to become a gentleman and author.



Filming took place in Bury St Edmunds in July 2018

It was announced in February 2018 that Armando Iannucci would be writing, directing, and producing a new adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. Iannucci wrote the screenplay with co-writer Simon Blackwell.[8] Dev Patel was cast in the title role later that month.[9] In April, the supporting cast was added, which included Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Aneurin Barnard, Ben Whishaw and Morfydd Clark.[10] In May 2018, Peter Capaldi was cast to play Mr. Micawber and pre-production was underway.[11]

Filming began in June 2018 in Norfolk and Suffolk, with Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong, Paul Whitehouse, and Daisy May Cooper joining the cast.[12][13] Scenes were shot in Hull,[14][15] Bury St Edmunds,[16] Weybourne[17] and King's Lynn in July.[18][19] Aimee Kelly was added to the cast the same month.[20] Principal photography on the film concluded in August 2018.[21] In filming David Copperfield, it became the first theatrical film production of the novel in 50 years.[22]


The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2019,[23] followed by its European premiere on 2 October 2019, acting as the opening film of the 63rd BFI London Film Festival.[24] It was the Surprise Film at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival. It was released in the United Kingdom by Lionsgate UK on 24 January 2020.[25] Searchlight Pictures acquired distribution rights for the United States and scheduled the release on 8 May 2020.[26][27] However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema, it was theatrically released later on 28 August 2020.[28]


Box office[edit]

As of 21 October 2020, The Personal History of David Copperfield has grossed $1.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $11.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $13.6 million.[29]

In the United States, the film debuted $520,000 from 1,360 theaters.[30] Playing in 1,550 theaters the following weekend it fell 24% to $361,000.[31]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 222 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Personal History of David Copperfield puts a fresh, funny, and utterly charming spin on Dickens' classic, proving some stories truly are timeless."[32] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[33] PostTrak reported that 74% of audience members gave the film a positive score, with 50% saying they would recommend it.[30]

Writing for The Observer, Mark Kermode awarded the film a full five stars and stated: "It really is a wonderfully entertaining film, managing to both respect and reinvent the novel from which it takes its lead."[34]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
British Independent Film Awards 1 December 2019 Best British Independent Film Armando Ianucci, Simon Blackwell & Kevin Loader Nominated [35][36]
Best Actor Dev Patel Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Hugh Laurie Won
Best Supporting Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
Best Screenplay Armando Ianucci & Simon Blackwell Won
Best Casting Sarah Crowe Won
Best Cinematography Zac Nicholson Nominated
Best Costume Design Suzie Harman & Robert Worley Won
Best Editing Mick Audsley & Peter Lambert Nominated
Best Make Up & Hair Design Karen Hartley-Thomas Nominated
Best Production Design Cristina Casali Won
British Academy Film Awards 2 February 2020 Best Casting Sarah Crowe Nominated


  1. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  2. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield". BBFC. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  3. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)". BFI.
  4. ^ Gant, Charles (19 December 2019). "Armando Iannucci on 'David Copperfield': "it's a celebration of what I feel Britain is"". Screen Daily. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  5. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  6. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)". The Numbers. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  7. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (July 23, 2020). "'Star Wars' Films, 'Avatar' Sequels Pushed Back a Year in Disney Release Calendar Shakeup". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  8. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (1 February 2018). "FilmNation To Launch Armando Iannucci's 'Personal History Of David Copperfield' In Berlin". Deadline Hollywood.
  9. ^ "Dev Patel Joins Armando Iannucci's 'David Copperfield' Film".
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (26 April 2018). "Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie Join Dev Patel in 'David Copperfield' (EXCLUSIVE)".
  11. ^ Mitchell, Robert (8 May 2018). "Peter Capaldi Re-Teams With Armando Iannucci for 'David Copperfield'".
  12. ^ Pochin, Courtney (10 May 2018). "David Copperfield adaptation starring Dev Patel and Tilda Swinton to be filmed in Norfolk". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong, Paul Whitehouse join Armando Iannucci's 'David Copperfield' (exclusive)".
  14. ^ Young, Angus (28 June 2018). "A major British film is being shot in Hull next week". Hull Live. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  15. ^ Robinson, Hannah (8 July 2018). "Full list of roads that will close as major British movie is filmed in Hull". Hull Live. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  16. ^ Derrick, Paul (3 July 2018). "PICTURES: David Copperfield film prepares to shoot scenes in Bury St Edmunds today". Bury Free Press. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  17. ^ Bethell, Karen (18 July 2018). "Dev Patel spotted filming scenes for David Copperfield movie on Norfolk beach". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  18. ^ Ali, Taz (7 June 2018). "Purfleet drained ahead of Dickens film adaptation". Lynn News. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Dozens line the streets to watch star-studded cast shoot major movie". Eastern Daily Press. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  20. ^ N’Duka, Amanda (31 July 2018). "Carrie Preston To Star In 'Avalanche'; Taryn Manning Set For 'The Haunting of Nicole Brown Simpson'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  21. ^ Blackwell, Simon (9 August 2018). "Today is the last day of principal photography on our David Copperfield film". Twitter. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  22. ^ Clarke, Donald (26 February 2019). "What will win the 2020 best picture Oscar? Probably one of these". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  23. ^ Lang, Brent (July 23, 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  24. ^ "European premiere of Armando Iannucci's The Personal History of David Copperfield to open 63rd BFI London Film Festival". BFI. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  25. ^ "'The Personal History of David Copperfield' will be released in cinemas across the UK on 24th January 2020!". The Arts Shelf. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  26. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 22, 2019). "Fox Searchlight Makes North American Rights Deal For 'The Personal History Of David Copperfield' Before Toronto & London Fest Bows". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  27. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (4 November 2019). "'The Personal History Of David Copperfield' Hitting Theaters In Early Summer 2020". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  28. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (2020-07-23). "'Star Wars' Films, 'Avatar' Sequels Pushed Back a Year in Disney Release Calendar Shakeup". Variety. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  29. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  30. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 28, 2020). "'New Mutants' Takes In $3M+ On First Day; Best Friday At The B.O. To Date During Pandemic". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  31. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 6, 2020). "'Tenet' Finally Opens Stateside: Warner Bros. Movie Resuscitates Exhibition With $20M+ Over Labor Day Weekend, $150M WW To Date". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  32. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  33. ^ "The Personal History of David Copperfield Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  34. ^ Kermode, Mark (2020-01-26). "The Personal History of David Copperfield review – Iannucci makes Dickens his own". The Observer. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  35. ^ Dalton, Ben (30 October 2019). "'The Personal History Of David Copperfield', 'Wild Rose' head 2019 BIFA nominations". Screen Daily. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  36. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (1 December 2019). "BIFA Winners: 'For Sama', 'The Personal History Of David Copperfield', Renée Zellweger Among Victors". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 6 December 2019.

External links[edit]