Sebastian Barry's novel The Secret Scripture has already had a spell of success and attention, winning awards and shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2008. Now it's set to return to the limelight with a film adaptation starring Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave. My Left Foot's Noel Pearson is producing, and after a few months of searching, the film now finally has a director in Thaddeus O'Sullivan.
A cinematographer by original trade, O'Sullivan made his debut as a director with the 1991 drama December Bride. He's since made Nothing Personal, Ordinary Decent Criminal, The Heart Of Me and, most recently, 2011's Stella Days. He's also directed regularly for television, most notably with HBO's Emmy-winning 2009 TV-movie Into The Storm.
The Secret Scripture sees Chastain playing the young Redgrave, since the novel concentrates on two separate points in the life of Roseanne McNulty. The set up is the occasion of Roseanne's (presumed) hundredth birthday, which she's sadly celebrating in the mental institution where she's lived for most of her life, but which is now facing closure. Investigating her case, and trying to piece together how Roseanne ever came to be there, is sympathetic psychiatrist Dr Grene.
The novel alternates between the journal entries of the doctor and Roseanne, who keeps her diary concealed in the floorboards of her room. Her narrative reveals dark goings-on during the Irish Civil War in the 1920s, and an event that provokes the moral censure of the stern Father Gaunt, who casts a permanent shadow over the rest of Roseanne's sad life.
The Secret Scripture's screenplay was sadly one of the final projects for the late Johnny Ferguson (Gangster No. 1), and the film is currently in pre-production. There's no start date for shooting yet, but further deals will be done at the European Film Market later this month.