Benedict Cumberbatch’s Company Snaps Up Rights To Historical Novel ‘The Way Of All Flesh’

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch’s production outfit SunnyMarch has pre-empted the TV rights to Ambrose Parry’s upcoming novel, The Way Of All Flesh, I can reveal. The book is the first in a new historical series set in the medical world of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1840s.

Ambrose Parry is the pseudonym for a collaboration between author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Marisa Haetzman. The novel will be published by Canongate as their superlead title in August 2018. SunnyMarch’s Managing Director Adam Ackland and Executive Producer Claire Marshall inked the deal with Charles Walker at United Agents and now plan to adapt the novel into a returning drama series but Cumberbatch is unlikely to star in this one, I understand.

Based on real historical figures, The Way of All Flesh is set in post-Enlightenment Edinburgh in 1847, a city home to brilliant advances in medical science but also great poverty with a truly unsavory, violent side. Medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant professor of midwifery, Dr James Young Simpson. It’s at Simpson’s unusual clinic on Queen Street, where patients range from the richest to the poorest that Raven meets Sarah Fisher, officially housemaid and unofficially clinical assistant to Dr Simpson, determined to improve her station in life. After a string of mysterious deaths in the city, Raven and Sarah are propelled into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

Chris Brookmyre is the best-selling author of 21 novels, including Black Widow, winner of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this novel was based. Brookmyre and Haetzman have been married for 26 years.

Marshall, Executive Producer at SunnyMarch, says, “Marisa and Chris have crafted a brilliant world from the real lives of remarkable men and women who made their mark in the history books and changed the face of medicine. We are incredibly excited about expanding on the themes and characters to make a bold, ambitious and thrilling drama series about young, restless, and flawed junior doctors. It’s a story about identity, sex and ambition shot through with a sense of modernity.”

London-based film and TV outfit SunnyMarch is run by Ackland and Cumberbatch. Upcoming film projects include a thriller by Steven Knight, an adaptation of Matt Haig’s bestseller How To Stop Time, a movie based on Geoffrey Household’s classic British novel Rogue Male, and an adaptation of Megan Hunter’s bestselling debut novel The End We Start From.

SunnyMarch’s TV arm, supported by StudioCanal, produced the adaptation of Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time for BBC One in co-production with Masterpiece. The company’s next TV project, Patrick Melrose, a five-part series based on the novels by Edward St Aubyn, penned by David Nicholls and directed by Edward Berger, will air on Sky Atlantic and Showtime in May.

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