April 10, 2013

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell coming to the BBC


Mark your calendars, Anglophiles, because the BBC has announced that it will produce a miniseries based on Susanna Clarke’s bestselling novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Dave Itzkoff wrote for the New York Times’ Arts Beat blog on Monday that the miniseries will air on BBC as well as BBC America sometime in 2014.

The Gothic novel, first published in 2004, tells the story of magicians and charlatans in 19th-century England, beginning with the titular Jonathan Strange, a “practicing” magician who scandalizes the society of “theoretical” magicians in York who are astonished to hear of somebody performing magic, which they believe to have died out centuries ago. The book received rave reviews when it came out, as well as an endorsement from Neil Gaiman, who described it as “unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years.” It also picked up several awards, including the Hugo Award (given to works of science fiction and fantasy) for best novel in 2005.

Per Itzkoff, the book will be adapted by screenwriter and playwright Peter Harness and directed by Toby Haynes, who’s recently directed episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who. The nearly 800-page novel will be divided up into seven hour-long installments; here in the US, it will be part of BBC America’s “Supernatural Saturday” block, which right now includes Doctor Who, the sci-fi series Orphan Black, and talk show The Nerdist.

No casting announcements have been made for the miniseries yet. While Itzkoff mentions BBC mainstays Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith when discussing the title roles, it seems like Bill Nighy would be a natural fit to play the Raven King John Uskglass, from whom all magic legendarily emanates, and Andy Serkis would be an ideal fit for the fairy “gentleman with thistle-down hair.” And while I can’t recall any characters from the novel whom Helena Bonham Carter might play, it seems inevitable that she’ll turn up, because it’s a Gothic-tinged supernatural story, and that’s what she does.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.