Netflix Lands ‘The 39 Steps’ Limited Series; Benedict Cumberbatch, Director Edward Berger & Scribe Mark L. Smith Update A Classic

EXCLUSIVE: Netflix has landed The 39 Steps, a limited series star vehicle for Benedict Cumberbatch. Edward Berger, who previously teamed with Cumberbatch on Patrick Melrose, will direct and The Revenant scribe Mark L. Smith will write the series. It’s an update of the classic thriller novel by John Buchan that was famously turned into the 1935 film classic by Alfred Hitchcock.

Anonymous Content, Chapter One Pictures and SunnyMarch are producing. I’m told there will be six or more hourlong episodes, most likely to shoot next year in Europe when schedules clear. Netflix moved most aggressively and committed to make the series when Anonymous Content took the package to the marketplace in late February.

Cumberbatch most recently starred in The Mauritanian and will next be seen starring in the Cold War thriller The Courier. Berger is coming off directing episodes and serving as EP on the superb Showtime limited series Your Honor with Bryan Cranston, and Smith scripted the George Clooney-directed The Midnight Sky.

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The 39 Steps is a provocative, action-packed conspiracy thriller series that updates the classic novel for relevance in contemporary times. An ordinary man, Richard Hannay, becomes an unwitting pawn in a vast, global conspiracy to reset the world order: 39 Steps that will change the world as we know it, with only Hannay standing in the way.

Cumberbatch will executive produce the limited series with his producing partner Adam Ackland under their SunnyMarch banner. Smith and Berger will also serve as executive producers alongside Sophie Gardiner for Chapter One Pictures, Cliff Roberts for Syndicate Entertainment and Keith Redmon for Anonymous Content.

The limited series is the latest to come out of Anonymous Content’s UK venture Chapter One Pictures—the London-based production company set up alongside UK agencies Casarotto Ramsay and United Agents. Chapter One is currently in pre-production on Best Interests, a drama series written by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials). It is developing a television adaptation of the novel Boy Swallows Universe with producer Joel Edgerton and an original sci-fi drama series penned by Bisha K. Ali for Netflix, among other projects.

Cumberbatch and SunnyMarch are represented by UTA, John Grant at Conway van Gelder Grant and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern. Smith is represented by Anonymous Content, Syndicate Entertainment, CAA and Mark Temple. Berger is represented by Anonymous Content, ICM Partners and Casarotto Ramsay and Associates.