EXCLUSIVE: David Heyman and StudioCanal are reteaming for a feature film adaptation of the classic family book The Secret Garden. Heyman will produce with Rosie Alison through his Heyday Films banner. They have tapped Jack Thorne, arguably the UK’s most in-demand writer, to adapt Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved story about Mary Lennox, a troubled, sickly, orphaned 10-year-old girl sent to live with an uncle after her parents have died in a cholera outbreak in India. Initially sour and rude, Mary begins to explore the grounds of her uncle’s estate and befriends a robin. Mary hears of a locked-away, hidden garden. Together with the robin, she finds the key and enters the garden only to discover it is more magical than she could have ever imagined.
This family-friendly fantastical fare is right in the wheelhouse of Heyman, already one of the world’s most successful film producers, having steered the global phenomenon of the Harry Potter series, successfully launched another family franchise in Paddington with StudioCanal and, of course, the multiple-Oscar-winning Gravity. Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is in post ahead of a November 16 release by Warner Bros.
Heyman and StudioCanal are also hard at work on Paddington 2. The first installment of the big-screen adaptation of Michael Bond’s marmalade-loving bear from deepest, darkest Peru was StudioCanal’s biggest-ever bet — the company fully financed the $55 million picture — and also its biggest success with worldwide grosses of $260 million. The sequel, currently in development, had buyers rushing to StudioCanal’s sales offices in Cannes.
Family films are likely to be a key part of StudioCanal’s business moving forward, and the company has the perfect partner in Heyman. It is also quite the coup to tap Thorne to adapt the book. The workaholic writer is adapting Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels His Dark Materials for BBC One, New Line Cinema and Bad Wolf. Still only 37, Thorne already has notched up an impressive array of film and TV credits .
He co-wrote A Long Way Down with Nick Hornby, starring Pierce Brosnan and most recently wrote Sky Atlantic’s well-received crime series The Last Panthers, with Tahar Rahim and Samantha Morton, for which he has received a best drama series BAFTA nomination. Thorne won a BAFTA for best mini-series for his work on Shane Meadows’ This Is England ’90 and another for best single drama for Don’t Take My Baby. His latest miniseries, National Treasure, an original four-parter for Channel 4 starring Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters and Andrea Riseborough, is in production. The Forge is producing.
Thorne is repped by Casarotto, Ramsay and Associates and WME.
The Secret Garden has previously been adapted a number of times as a feature film, including a 1993 version directed by Agnieszka Holland and a 1949 adaptation helmed by Fred M. Wilcow. The novel initially was published in serial format beginning in 1910 and was first published in its entirety in 1911. It is hailed as a classic 20th century literary children’s title.