EXCLUSIVE: Rising actress Odessa Young (Assassination Nation), BAFTA-nominee Josh O’Connor (The Crown), Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Oscar-winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) are set to star in drama Mothering Sunday for Carol producers Number 9 Films.
The blue chip period-drama becomes one of the hottest UK projects at the Cannes virtual market where Rocket Science is launching world sales.
Eva Husson (Girls Of The Sun) will direct from Succession and Normal People scribe Alice Birch’s adaptation of Graham Swift’s acclaimed novel.
Set over a day in 1924, the story follows Jane Fairchild (Young), a maid in the Niven household, who has the day off to celebrate Mothering Sunday while Mr and Mrs Niven (Firth and Colman) attend a lunch to celebrate the engagement of their neighbor’s only remaining son, Paul (O’Connor), to Emma Hobday. Jane rejoices at her freedom on an unseasonably hot, beautiful spring day. But, she has no mother to go to.
For almost seven years she has – joyfully and without shame – been Paul’s lover. Like the Nivens, Paul belongs to England’s old money aristocracy, whereas Jane was orphaned at birth. With the house conveniently empty, they can finally meet in Paul’s bedroom for the first time. Today will be their last as lovers. It is also the day that will mark the beginning of Jane’s transformation as the story unfolds through the hours of clandestine passion.
Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley’s Number 9 are producing, with financing from Film4 and Ingenious. The film has been developed with the support of Film4 and the BFI. The plan is to shoot on location in the UK this fall.
The project has already attracted a stellar set of HoD’s with Oscar-winner Sandy Powell (The Irishman) on board as costume designer, cinematographer Jamie Ramsay (Noughts + Crosses), make-up designer Nadia Stacey (The Favourite), production designer Helen Scott (A Very English Scandal) and editor Emilie Orsini (The Party).
Director Husson said: “It truly felt like the planets aligned when this wonderful screenplay, Mothering Sunday somehow found its way to me. Alice Birch seemed to whisper in my ear, and I felt everything I’d done so far prepared me for this specific story. It was a culmination of all that I am obsessed with in life: writing, sensuality, and pure cinema. I finished the script in tears, not from sadness, but because it cracked me open, like the most honest works do.”
Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley added: “The combination of the Alice Birch screenplay Eva’s direction and the incredible source material of Graham Swift’s novel, and this amazing cast make the prospect of Mothering Sunday a producers dream! We are very happy to have put this team together. But we were enabled to create this outstanding combination of talent with the full support of Daniel Battsek, Julia Oh and the Film4 group. We hope that we will repay their confidence in us by delivering an inspiring post COVID movie for a truly cinematic experience. The added support of the BFI on this project is invaluable to us.”
Karlsen and Woolley told us that in the age of coronavirus, the project would benefit from its relatively contained physical scope. “The piece wasn’t designed for the moment but as it turns out it is well suited to being shot now,” said Woolley, noting that it includes interiors, exteriors wood scenes and “unpopulated environments”.
Karlsen added that the team had been able to pull the project together with zoom script calls and socially-distanced scouts, which included director Husson patching in over FaceTime. “The collaborative spirit has been remarkable. The sands have been shifting due to the coronavirus but we are blessed to have such special underlying material and the effort to get back into work has been thrilling as well as hard work and something of a rollercoaster.”
The film has multiple offers of production insurance, the producers told us.
Odessa Young is repped by CAA, Echo Lake Entertainment and Shanahan Management, Independent Talent and CAA rep Josh O’Connor. Olivia Colman is repped by United Agents and ICM. Independent Talent and CAA rep Colin Firth. Eva Husson is repped by Independent Talent and UTA, United Agents and UTA rep Alice Birch.