EXCLUSIVE: Benedict Cumberbatch is reteaming with BBC One and Masterpiece for the adaptation of Ian McEwan’s award-winning 1987 novel The Child In Time. Cumberbatch will star in and executive produce the one-off 90-minute drama written by Stephen Butchard.

In their first commission, Pinewood Television and Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch TV will produce The Child In Time for BBC One with Masterpiece co-producing. Studiocanal has worldwide sales.

Cumberbatch, who is coming off the fourth season of BBC One/Masterpiece sleuthing series Sherlock, will play Stephen Lewis, a successful children’s book author whose daughter suddenly goes missing in the lyrical and heartbreaking exploration of love, loss and the power of things unseen.

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Jonathan Cape

The film will explore the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. Her absence sets Stephen and his wife on diverging paths as both struggle with an all-consuming grief. With the passage of time, a balance of sorts returns, until hope surfaces and triumphs unexpectedly.

This is one of McEwan’s major early works. It won the Whitbread Novel Award in 1987. One of Cumberbatch’s first notable feature roles was in the adaptation of McEwan’s Atonement.

Butchard is known for Five Daughters and The Last Kingdom. Julian Farino (Marvellous, Entourage) will direct.

Cumberbatch says, “I read the novel years ago and it stayed with me — profound, beautiful and very moving. Only Ian McEwan could write about loss with such telling honesty. We’re very excited to have Stephen Butchard’s subtle and brilliant adaptation, and in Julian Farino we have an extraordinary director who delivers emotional truth. I’m so proud The Child In Time will be the first drama produced by SunnyMarch TV.”

Pinewood Television’s Creative Director Helen Gregory, adds, “I am delighted to be bringing Stephen’s beautiful adaptation of The Child In Time to the screen in collaboration with such huge talents as Julian Farino and Benedict.”

McEwan is “thrilled to have my novel in the hands of such a high level creative team. I have fond memories of Benedict playing a brilliant and key part in the movie adaptation of Atonement. Now, it’s a great honor to have this actor of such immense resource, experience and subtlety in the lead role of The Child In Time.”

The drama was commissioned by the BBC’s Piers Wenger and Charlotte Moore. Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, Wegner says, “The Child In Time is a unique and moving story and one which I think will touch the heart of every BBC One viewer. I’m proud to be involved with both Pinewood Television and SunnyMarch TV’s first television commission, and to welcome Benedict back again to BBC One.”

Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton notes the broadcaster “has been proud to showcase Benedict’s work for many years, and of course Sherlock has been a fantastic gift to our audience. To co-produce the first television drama out of his shop, SunnyMarch TV, with Pinewood Television is very gratifying.”

Studiocanal, which acquired a stake in SunnyMarch last April, has distribution rights. Rola Bauer, CEO/Partner of Studiocanal’s Tandem Productions, who took on oversight of all Studiocanal production and co-production television activities in the U.S. last year, secured the co-production deal with Masterpiece.

Exec producers are Helen Gregory for Pinewood Television; Cumberbatch, Adam Ackland and David Boulter for SunnyMarch TV; Lucy Richer for the BBC; Eaton for Masterpiece and Butchard.

Cumberbatch is currently shooting The Weinstein Co’s The Current War and reprises his role as Dr Stephen Strange in Disney/Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok which releases in November. He’s repped by Conway van Gelder Grant and UTA.