Saturday, 16 February 2013

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for the BBC!

I'm actually ashamed of myself that I didn't find out about this sooner! Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is one of my all-time favourite books and it's going to be adapted by BBC One later this year! I'll be looking forward to this for the whole of 2013!

So far not all that much has been announced about this BBC adaptation but I'm feeling very optimistic. I know there was an attempt to adapt the book as a movie adaptation previously back in 2005/6 but the project fell apart. New Line Cinema bought the rights to the book on a 3 year deal and Christopher Hampton and Julian Fellowes both wrote scripts for this proposed adaptation. However New Line Cinema collapsed, they lost the rights, and the project was abandoned. To be honest a BBC miniseries is by far the best way to adapt the book so I'm glad it didn't get turned into a movie. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a very big book and although a movie budget would be bigger and would allow for better special effects, the size of the novel means that you'd have to leave out so much from it to make it fit into a two hour movie. This BBC miniseries is going to be in six-parts so it should be about six hours long. That's so much better! The book is so very English that the BBC is the perfect fit and they have an excellent track record when it comes to literary adaptations. Some talented people are directly behind this project as well. It's going to be directed by Toby Haynes who's directed a number of episodes for Doctor Who, including the brilliant The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang finale of series five. The best finale of all of New Who! Haynes also directed the absolutely brilliant Sherlock finale of series two, The Reichenbach Fall. The writer behind this adaptation is Peter Harness. I don't know very much about him but he's written for Kenneth Branagh's Wallender and that show has been very well-reviewed. If they're faithful to the book and get the casting right for this miniseries then it should be fantastic! I'm also hoping that they'll actually go to Spain/Portugal and Venice to film Strange's travels abroad. I hope they won't remove all of the footnotes either. The miniseries is probably going to be more straightforward in terms of narrative than the book, and will probably just stick to the main plot, but it would be a shame to loose the footnotes altogether. What if they included some of the footnotes about the Raven King as flashbacks?

As this adaptation was only announced fairly recently - in November last year - it will probably be a good few months before we get any concrete casting information for it. I have a few ideas on who I'd like to be in it though. For Mr Norrell I think Toby Jones, Hugh Bonneville and Anthony Stewart Head could all be great choices. I know that John Hurt and Ian Holm are popular choices with other fans of the book but they're just too old for the role. Hurt is 73 and Holm is 81. Mr Norrell is only about 50 when the book starts so his character isn't that old! As for Jonathan Strange, the first time I read the book back in 2007(ish) I kept picturing David Tennant in the role. If Tennant were just a few years younger he'd still be my top choice to play the character. Sadly I think he's slightly too old for the role now but I'd love him to be in this adaptation somewhere. I love this girl's suggestion that he could play The Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair!: Yes, Tennant has definitely got the charm for the role and I think he'd have a lot of fun playing someone evil. And I would love to see him dance! I think Damian Lewis and Benedict Cumberbatch are the most popular fan choices for Jonathan Strange these days but Lewis would probably be busy with Homeland and Cumberbatch is very busy these days as well. They had to delay the filming of Sherlock series three by a month so it fitted in with his schedule. Eddie Redmayne could make a great Jonathan Strange now. He's about the right age. He's got ginger-ish hair anyway and they could always dye it to make it bright red like they did in Pillars of the Earth. Tom Hiddleston would be excellent as well but I think he's pretty busy these days as well. I shall have to wait and see!

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