Brian Percival Directing The Book Thief

Marcus Zusek's novel to be filmed

Given the immediate, enormous, bestselling popularity of Marcus Zusek's The Book Thief, it's suprising that it's taken seven years to reach the screen. A film is finally approaching, however, with Fox 2000 giving the directing gig to Brian Percival.

Set in Germany during World War II, The Book Thief is narrated by a benign Grim Reaper, who takes a lifelong (if you'll pardon the pun) interest in Liesel Meminger.

Liesel is sent to live with foster parents to distance her from her Communist parents, whose political sympathies will make them targets of the Nazi regime. Living with her new family, the Hubermanns, she befriends Jewish fistfighter Max, who's being hidden in the Hubermans' cellar; the mayor's wife Ilsa, who gives Liesel the run of her library; and various local children, including the tragic Rudy. The novel traces Liesel's personal development, both through her relationships and through the books she reads. She eventually writes the story of her own life, as the war gets closer and closer to home.

Zusak started out as a children's writer, and The Book Thief is one of those novels that straddles the age gap, given two covers and kept on both the adult and kids' shelves in bookshops. First published in 2005, it's won numerous awards, and is still on the New York Times betseller lists.

Brian Percival directed A Boy Called Dad in 2009, starring Ian Hart. But he's best-known for his TV work, often on literary adaptations. He made series of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South and Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop for the BBC, as well as the one-off The Ruby In The Smoke, starring Billie Piper and based on Phillip Pullman's adventure. Most recently he's been directing episodes of Downton Abbey for ITV, including the Christmas special that pulled in more viewers even than Doctor Who.

The Book Thief's screenplay is by Michael Petroni (The Rite), and Karen Ronsenfelt (Twilight) is producing. Shooting is pencilled in for the summer.