EXCLUSIVE: Mark Rylance, Ciro Guerra and producer Michael Fitzgerald have joined to bring J.M. Coetzee’s award-winning book Waiting For The Barbarians to the big screen. Coetzee, a Nobel Prize winner for literature, adapted the novel which the Nobel Prize committee called “a political thriller in the tradition of Joseph Conrad, in which the idealist’s naiveté opens the gates to horror.”

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Waiting For The Barbarians, which first was published in 1980 and quickly amassed honors, follows a magistrate (to be played by the Oscar-winning Rylance) of a far-flung border outpost as the reckless behavior of the “Empire” he serves threatens to trigger a Barbarian invasion. He begins to question imperialism when he saves a young ‘barbarian’ (one of the indigenous people in the country) and realizes that all is not what it appears to be. After mounting a harrowing escape, he is arrested by his own people and thrown in jail only to escape and eventually become an inspiration and leader to others.

The book, which is considered Coetzee’s master work, won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for fiction. It has been brought to the stage before (Phillip Glass composed a two-act opera for it) but never to the big screen. Coetzee, who is South African but lives in Australia, is one of the most respected authors of this century.

Fitzgerald (Wise Blood, The Pledge) is the one who pulled the prestigious project together with Rylance and Guerra. Rylance, who won the Academy Award for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies, also teamed with Spielberg on The BFG and his upcoming Ready Player One. Rylance is also working with Christopher Nolan on the WWII film Dunkirk. Rylance is repped by Christian Hodel.

Guerra is currently in pre-production on Birds Of Passage which is in pre-production to shoot in the deserts of Colombia in January. The film is the follow-up to his Embrace Of The Serpent. The director is repped by Paradigm and Marios Rush of Marks Law Group. .