EXCLUSIVE: Billy Howle has been cast opposite Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach for Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley’s Number 9 Films. The British newcomer, whose upcoming credits include The Sense Of An Ending with Emily Mortimer and Charlotte Rampling and The Seagull also with Ronan and Annette Bening, has landed the male lead as Edward Mayhew in the adaptation of Ian McEwan’s bestselling 2007 novel.

Dominic Cooke (The Hollow Crown) is set to direct the project for Number 9, the banner behind Todd Haynes’ multi-Oscar-nominated Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

On Chesil Beach
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Set in England in 1962, On Chesil Beach is a touching tale of two young lovers Edward and Florence (Ronan) and how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives.

“The character of Edward has a lot of qualities that are hard to find in young people today,” said Karlsen. “But Billy has all the qualities of strength, innocence, sensitivity and a certain kind of rage that are needed for this complex role.”

The project has been developed by Number 9 in conjunction with BBC Films. Lionsgate has taken UK rights and it is set to shoot in October.

Number 9 has a number of interesting productions in the pipeline including Jane Goldman’s adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s The Limehouse Golem and Gaby Chiappe’s adaptation of Lissa Evans’ Their Finest, both of which are set to premiere in Toronto next month.

Limehouse Golem, a project Number 9 had been chasing for more than 20 years, is directed by Juan Carlos Medina and stars Olivia Cooke and Bill Nighy. Woolley describes it as a “Victorian thriller with a very feminist and modern twist.”

Their Finest is directed by Lone Scherfig and stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Nighy. It’s a battle of the sexes project set in early 1940s World War II London that follows the misadventures of a British movie crew trying to make a patriotic film to boost morale during the Blitz.

WME and Hanway Films are co-repping Limehouse Golem in Toronto, while CAA and Hanway co-rep Their Finest. Lionsgate has already taken UK rights for both titles.

Howle is repped by Curtis Brown and CAA. Ronan is repped by CAA and Macfarlane Chard.