With The Escapist and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes under his belt, Rupert Wyatt has had his pick of projects, both stateside and here in the UK. But though he’s flirted with a few – including Michael Fassbender project Londongrad and the chance to make the Apes sequel – he hasn’t made up his mind. Now, though, it seems he’s digging back into his own filmmaking history and reuniting with Birdsong.
Sebastian Faulks’ novel was pounced upon when it was published in 1993, optioned quickly and trumpeted as the sort of period epic we Brits do so well. Except… It never got made. And, 16 years, several cast changes and a revolving door of big name actors and writers later, it seemed doomed for eternity in limbo when the Beeb made its TV adaptation last year.
But now Embankment Films thinks that the time is still right to get a film version made, and has Wyatt aboard to make it happen.
The book follows Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who lives in France in 1910, apprenticed into the textile industry. He falls for local married woman Isabelle Azaire, but though they elope, she eventually returns to her family. Faulks’ story then leaps around in time, hopping between 1916 during Stephen’s time fighting in the Battle of the Somme, and the 1970s, when his granddaughter investigates some family history.
Amongst the names attached at one time or another were Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes, Eva Green and Jake Gyllenhaal, while Joe Wright, Michael Mann, Sam Mendes, Paul Greengrass and more have considered directing. It has been set up several times, even getting to the point of scouting locations. But it just kept stalling.
Embankment’s executives will be hoping Wyatt – who was attached after he made The Escapist, and wrote at least one draft of the script before he chose to make Apes instead – will finally get it on screen. He may well, but given the history of this particular project, we won’t count on it just yet.