Sony Pictures TV is bringing together one of the biggest movie stars, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lucy, Her), and the work of one of the most celebrated American novelists, the Pulitzer Prize winner Edith Wharton (The Age Of Innocence) for a limited series project that is about to hit the marketplace. Johansson is set to star in and executive produce the eight-episode period series, from Charles Finch’s Pink Sands, which is based on Wharton’s 1913 novel The Custom Of The Country.
Eyed for a cable run, possibly on premium cable, it will be written by British playwright-screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement) from his original screenplay. Hampton originally wrote a feature script adaptation of Custom Of The Country almost two decades ago, reportedly for Michelle Pfeiffer who had starred in the 1993 feature Age Of Innocence, based on Wharton’s book. It was published in 2002 as part of a collection of Hampton screenplays.
Custom Of The Country is described as a scathing story of ambition featuring one of the most ruthless heroines in literature, Undine Spragg, who will be played by Johansson in her first major TV role. Undine is as unscrupulous as she is magnetically beautiful. Her rise to the top of New York’s high society from her nouveau riche roots provides a provocative and thoroughly modern commentary on the upwardly mobile and the aspirations that eventually cause their ruin.
Johansson, repped by CAA and LBI, is executive producing with Hampton and Finch. Hampton is repped by CAA and Casarotto/Ramsay.
While not as famous as Wharton’s Age Of Innocence, The Custom Of The Country has had great influence, with Julian Fellowes citing it as an inspiration for his work including his hit drama series Downton Abbey.