Netflix and Canadian broadcaster CBC have teamed up to greenlight Alias Grace, a six-hour miniseries from Sarah Polley (Away from Her) and Noreen Halpern’s Halfire Entertainment. The mini is inspired by the historical true story of convicted murderer Grace Marks and based on Margaret Atwood’s novel. Polley, who originally adapted the book as a feature four years ago, is writing and producing, and Mary Harron (American Psycho) directs. Production is scheduled to begin in Ontario, Canada in August. Alias Grace will be broadcast in Canada on CBC and will stream globally on Netflix.

Margaret Atwood
Associated Press

The story of Alias Grace follows Grace Marks, a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott, was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843. James was hanged while Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment. Grace became one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of 1840s Canada for her supposed role in the sensational double murder, and was eventually exonerated after 30 years in jail. Her conviction was controversial, and sparked much debate about whether Grace was actually involved in the murder, or merely an unwitting accessory.

“I first read Alias Grace when I was 17 years old and throughout the last 20 years I have read it over and over, trying to get to the bottom of it,” said Polley. “Grace Marks, as captured by Margaret Atwood, is the most complex, riveting character I have ever read.”

Both the screen adaptation and the Atwood novel on which the miniseries is based, introduce a fictional young doctor named Simon Jordan who researches the case and begins to fall in love with Grace. He soon becomes obsessed with her as he seeks to reconcile his perception of the mild-mannered woman he sees with the savage murder of which she has been convicted.

“Sarah Polley wrote a stunning six-hour script, based on Margaret Atwood’s award winning book, and we are thrilled that CBC and Netflix have joined forces to co-commission this show,” said Halpern, President of Halfire Entertainment.

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Polley, Oscar nominee for adapted screenplay, Harron and Halpern executive produce. D.J. Carson (Spotlight) co-produces.

Published in 1996, Alias Grace was awarded the Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Additional books by Atwood that have been adapted for film and television include The Handmaid’s Tale, Payback, The Robber Bride, The Sin Eater and Surfacing. Kids’ CBC recently greenlit an animated series based on Atwood’s children’s book The Wide World of Wandering Wenda.

WME | IMG negotiated the sale to Netflix on behalf of Halfire. Atwood is repped by ICM Partners. Harron is with APA, Circle of Confusion, and Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard. Polley is repped by WME, Gary Goddard Agency, Circle of Confusion, and Jackoway Tyerman.