Deadline reported in July that offers were out to Paul Dano and Downton Abbey‘s Lily James for the six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic War And Peace which hails from BBC Worldwide, The Weinstein Co and Ripper Street‘s Lookout Point. The pair will now be joined in the event mini by Happy Valley and Grantchester‘s James Norton, the BBC confirmed today. The trio will play the lead roles of Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostova and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, respectively. Also heading up the cast is Stephen Rea as Prince Vassily Kuragin.
Scripted by Andrew Davies, the adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece will be directed by Tom Harper (Peaky Blinders, Woman In Black: Angel Of Death). The epic-scale drama is “a thrilling, funny and heartbreaking story of love, war and family life,” says Davies.
Further casting includes Ade Edmondson (Prey) and Greta Scacchi as Count and Countess Rostov, while Jack Lowden (The Tunnel) is Nikolai Rostov; Tom Burke (The Musketeers) is Dolokhov; and Aisling Loftus (Mr Selfridge) plays Sonya.
The notoriously expansive novel begins in 1805 Russia and revolves around five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I, the lingering effects of his grandmother Catherine The Great’s rule and the events surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Natasha Rostova is one of the novel’s central characters, who ultimately falls in love with Pierre Bezukhov, the awkward illegitimate son who rises in society but leads a tumultuous life as he seeks to overcome his emotions. Andrei Bolkonsky is Natasha’s other suitor who forms the third leg of the love triangle. In King Vidor’s 1956 feature adaptation, the roles were played by Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Mel Ferrer.
Shooting starts on the mini next month in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia. BBC Cymru Wales Drama is producing, in partnership with The Weinstein Co and BBC Worldwide/Lookout Point.
Harvey Weinstein says, “I fell in love with Tolstoy’s War And Peace as a teenager when I read it for the first time. Putting an epic, iconic story like War And Peace on screen with a cast of this caliber is an incredible thrill. Lily, Paul, and James are all amazingly talented actors and it takes their level of talent to capture the scale of Tolstoy’s words. We are excited to get underway with Andrew Davies and the phenomenal team at BBC.”
Norton comments, “I’m thrilled to be entrusted with Andrei in this exciting adaptation. It’s a privilege to bring to life one of Tolstoy’s wonderfully rich and conflicted characters. And to get to work alongside talents such as Tom Harper, Andrew Davies, Lily James and Paul Dano is very exciting — I can’t wait to get started.”
James says, “I am very excited and privileged to be playing Natasha in this co-production between BBC and The Weinstein Company of Tolstoy’s classic War And Peace. It is amazing to be part of such a prestigious cast and to appear in such a beautiful and rich adaptation by Andrew Davies.”
This has been described as one of the most ambitious event series ever made for the BBC, and is part of The Weinstein Co’s thrust into the European TV arena. BBC Controller of Drama, Ben Stephenson, noted today, “The impressive array of talent assembled for this drama production is testament to the ambition and scale of this iconic story that we will bring to life for a new generation.”
The series will be executive produced by BBC Wales Head of Drama Faith Penhale and Bethan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales; Andrew Davies, Harvey Weinstein and Robert Walak for The Weinstein Co; and Simon Vaughan for Lookout Point. Producer is Julia Stannard.
James is next up in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and recently shot Pride And Prejudice And Zombies; she’s repped by Tavistock Wood Management in the UK and by UTA. Dano plays Brian Wilson in Beach Boys biopic Love & Mercy and stars in Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino’s next film, The Early Years; he’s repped by WME. Norton recently toplined UK hit series Grantchester and Happy Valley; he’s repped by The Artists Partnership and UTA. Crying Game star Rea was recently in UK dramas Utopia and The Honourable Woman; he’s with ICM Partners and Independent Talent Group.