EXCLUSIVE: John Updike’s controversial Rabbit, Run novels are to be adapted for television after War and Peace producer Lookout Point optioned the rights. The BBC Worldwide-backed production company has brought on board Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary writer Andrew Davies to pen the remake.
Davies will adapt Updike’s four novels, which tell the story of former high school basketball player Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, who escapes his small-town life, where he’s trapped in a loveless marriage and a boring sales job, for the small screen for the first time.
The books were previously adapted as a film, directed by Jack Smith, written by Howard Kreitsek and starring James Caan as Angstrom for Warner Bros in 1970.
It is the fourth collaboration between Davies and Lookout Point, which was set up by Simon Vaughan, after War and Peace, Les Misérables and an adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, which is in pre-production. Davies has also previously written the original House of Cards for the BBC and The Tailor of Panama.
There is no broadcaster currently on board Rabbit, Run, although much of Lookout Point’s drama output has been for the British public broadcaster. This project may well lend itself to an international co-production between a British network and a U.S. broadcaster, particularly given its focus on the U.S. between the 1950s and 1980s.
Davies said: “This is such an important series of books for me. As a young man, I read Rabbit, Run when it came out and thought: gosh, this is what life is all about. For me no other writer examines the mundane, everyday details of life with such expressionistic, colourful, spiritual power. I have hoped for a long time to adapt Updike’s novels and I’m thrilled to embark on this journey now.”
Faith Penhale, Joint CEO and Creative Director, Lookout Point said Davies was a “master” at bringing complex characters and stories to television. “It is a huge honour to have won the rights and the support from the Updike estate, to bring these incredible novels to life for television. Updike captures the myth of the American Dream and longing for a better time so brilliantly through the experiences of Rabbit. The novels have resonated with readers since the 60’s and the themes covered are equally relevant in today’s challenging political and economic climate.”
Simon Vaughan, Chairman and Joint CEO, Lookout Point added: “We were talking to Andrew about whether there was any great work of literature he had always wanted to adapt and Andrew said without breaking breath that it was Updike’s Rabbit books. Following his adaptations of non-British epics including War and Peace, Les Misérables and A Suitable Boy, it seems perfectly logical for him to take on one of America’s iconic titles, and we are thrilled to have been able to secure the rights from the estate.”