BBC One has greenlit a long-gestating miniseries adaptation of Howards End, based on the classic EM Forster novel which was turned into an Oscar-winning Merchant Ivory feature in 1992. The four-part drama is produced by Colin Callender’s Playground in association with City Entertainment and KippSterEntertainment.
As Deadline reported in 2013, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and playwright Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me, Gangs Of New York) is penning the series which explores the changing landscape of social and class divisions in early 20th century England through the prism of three families: the intellectual and idealistic Schlegels, the wealthy Wilcoxes from the world of business, and the working class Basts.
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala won an Oscar for her feature script adaptation and Emma Thompson won one for her star-making turn as Margaret Schlegel. Production on the mini, which was originally envisioned for BBC Two, is set to begin in the summer of 2016.
In making the announcement today, Callender, who recently produced the BBC Two/Starz adaptation of classic play The Dresser, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen, spoke of the current controversy surrounding the BBC’s future as a whole. “At a time when there is a raging debate about the BBC license fee, it is worth reminding ourselves that it is because this great institution is funded by license fee rather than advertising or subscription that it is able to bring to the British audience dramas that no one else in the UK would produce,” he said. “The boldness of commissioning a playwright like Ken Lonergan to adapt this great literary classic and make it accessible and relevant to a modern audience is a testament to the BBC’s crucial and unique role in the broadcast landscape worldwide.”
Lonergan added, “I’m very proud to have been entrusted with this adaptation of Howards End for the BBC. The book belongs to millions of readers past and present; I only have the nerve to take it on at all because of the bottomless wealth and availability of its ideas, the richness of its characters and the imperishable strain of humanity running through every scene. The blissfully expansive miniseries format makes it possible to mine these materials with a freedom and fidelity that would be otherwise impossible. It’s a humbling and thrilling creative venture transporting the Schlegels, Wilcoxes and Basts from the page to the screen. I hope audiences will enjoy spending time with them as much as I do.”