EXCLUSIVE: One of Hollywood’s long-lost scripts, period horror thriller Harrow Alley, could finally see the light of day after British actor and writer Emma Thompson partnered with His Dark Materials producer Bad Wolf to develop it for the small screen. The project is set up at HBO, sources said.
The original script was written by Walter Newman, who was nominated for three Oscars, 1951’s Ace In The Hole, 1965’s Cat Ballou and 1978’s Bloodbrothers, in the 1960s but never managed to make it to screen, despite the involvement of George C Scott and other high-profile talent, as a result of its dark subject matter and big-budget requirements.
I hear Thompson, who has been involved in helping it along since the early 2000s, has now parked it at Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner’s UK/U.S. drama production company Bad Wolf in order to take advantage of the major budgets associated with the global drama boom. I understand that Bad Wolf, which is backed by HBO and UK’s Sky along with Len Blavatnik’s Access Entertainment, is in the “very early stages” of development with the project.
Harrow Alley is set during the black plague in the 17th century and follows an English town as it deteriorates. It follows the fortunes of two men, likeable but lawless rogue Ratsey and well-meaning alderman Harry, who are both trying to survive the dangers of the time.
Newman called Harrow Alley the “high point of my professional life, a creative frenzy for nearly 12 wonderful months”. Of his 172-page script, which has been widely circulated online and used in film classes, in 1978, Newman told the New York Times that the likes of My Fair Lady star Rex Harrison, Room At The Top star Laurence Harvey and The Stepford Wives director Bryan Forbes had been attached at various points. Newman, who died in 1993, said that he was given the opportunity to produce it for network television, but said, “I just couldn’t see squeezing it into a Universal movie‐of‐the‐week budget. That would have strangled it.” But he added, “Someday, somehow, I’m going to get at made. That’s all I can tell you.”
While, Thompson, who had previously attempted to make it as a feature with Miramax, is best known for her role in front of the camera in films such as Howards End, Sense and Sensibility, Harry Potter and Saving Mr Banks, she has a number of A-list writing credits including Bridget Jones’ Baby, Nanny McPhee and HBO’s Wit, which she co-wrote with Mike Nichols. Here’s hoping Thompson can be the person to finally make it happen.