EXCLUSIVE: On the heels of its U.S. release last week to great reviews, Richard House’s political conspiracy thriller novel The Kills is headed to television as a drama series for Starz and the BBC produced by Colin Callender’s Playground. The Kills, which was optioned by Playground, centers on the global manhunt for a British mercenary who goes on the run after stealing $50 million from an American reconstruction project in Iraq. Search is underway for a writer to adapt the literary property, which has a rather unusual structure. The Kills, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and nominated for a Sky Arts Award, was originally published in the U.K. as four separate interconnecting books, while in the U.S. the quartet of books came out as a single volume. Book 1, titled Sutler, chronicles the manhunt at the center of the plot. Book 2, The Massive, is a prequel, and explains why the man was forced to go on the run. Book 4, The Hit, picks up where Book 1 left off in following the manhunt. In a twist, Book 3, The Kill, is a standalone novel about the murder of an American student in Italy. It is the novel that the characters in Book 1 are reading; in Book 2 it’s made into a film; and in Book 4 it’s used by one of the characters for sinister purposes. The project is being shepherded for Playground by Scott Huff, VP of Development and Production.
The Kills is Callender’s latest project at Starz where he has a deal. His previous three, limited/mini-series The White Queen, Dancing On The Edge and The Missing, also were co-productions with the BBC where Brit Callender has deep ties. Since its launch in 2012, Playground has produced five projects that have gone on the air, The White Queen, Dancing On The Edge, The Missing, series Dracula at NBC, and an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis at BBC and Masterpiece Theater. He also is developing Kenneth Lonergan’s mini-series adaptation of Howards End and Chris Hampton’s series adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, both for the BBC.