EXCLUSIVE: Coming full circle here at Cannes after Deadline reported a few years ago that Nicolas Winding Refn was preparing a remake of historical horror drama Witchfinder General, the project now has a director. John Hillcoat (Lawless) has boarded the production as helmer while the filmmakers are out to cast with a start eyed later this year.
Refn and Rupert Preston, through their new production ventures Bynwr.com and Sunrise Films, together with Hillcoat’s Blank Films, are producing the update. All developed the project which is written by Jon Croker (Woman In Black 2).
The original Witchfinder General starred Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Dwyer and was based on Ronald Bassett’s novel. Set in 1645 Norfolk, England, it was a fictionalized study of real-life witch hunter Matthew Hopkins and the heinous crimes he committed during the English Civil War. Torture and violence featured heavily in the original film, which stirred controversy, and the censors, in the UK. In the U.S., it played drive-ins and grindhouses and ultimately gained cult status. Going forward, we could expect nothing less (or more?) from Refn.
He says, “For almost 20 years, Rupert Preston has not only been one of the main distributors of my films, he has also been one of my closest partners in entertainment. It is with extreme pleasure that both Rupert and I can incorporate John Hillcoat into our group as director for our production of Witchfinder General. It gives me enormous satisfaction to produce John’s vision and bring the retelling of this classic British film to a new audience.”
Hillcoat adds, “I am excited to work with fellow filmmaker Nic Refn, a maverick auteur and who, together with Rupert Preston, have been fully committed to independent cinema over the years. I’m drawn to the dynamic departures behind this remake. The idea of a world pushed to extremes where fear preys upon all, unleashing religious fanaticism, rival factions, tribalism, heretics, and witch hunts… feels strangely familiar in today’s world.”
Vertigo’s Preston says, “We’re huge fans of John’s work and thrilled that John and his company, Blank Films, have come on board. It’s an incredibly powerful and iconic piece and is now a re-imagining of the original film rather than a straight remake. It is set to excite and resonate with a worldwide audience.”