Turning George Eliot’s classic novel into a film always seemed unlikely when judged on certain ‘qualities’ that equate to good adaptation material. Complete with 800 pages dealing with multiple plots focusing on subjects as wide and far-reaching as religion, political reform, self-delusion and provincial life, the idea of adapting Middlemarch always sounded like a nightmare. Though following news that Andrew Davies had taken charge of the script with Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) directing, everything started to make a little more sense – and the project sounds like it’s going to be something worth getting excited about, regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the source.
This is the first time that the book is being adapted, despite being considered one of the finest works in English literature and of the English-speaking world. The explanation for this lies mainly in the complex nature of the plot and the seemingly endless number of characters. A work of this size and stature is not an easy thing to play with, and having studied English at Cambridge, it’s pretty safe to assume that Sam Mendes knows this. Along with Davies, the costume-drama writer behind the Middlemarch mini-series and with Focus Features having signed a deal with his company, Neal Street Productions, Mendes is geared up to point this project in the right direction.
It’s been on the horizon for a long time, sparking interest from filmmakers as diverse and influential as Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Shine A Light) who has shown interest in a possible adaptation and who’d read the novel while filming The Departed, but it seems as though the English director beat him to it– and according to his producing partner, Pippa Harris, he’s just as eager to present stories about his country of birth as he is about America, where most of his work up until this point has taken place.
There’s no doubt that Eliot’s novel will need a high budget and a lot of time and effort to be brought to screen, but the end result feels pretty crucial. A work like Middlemarch needs to be delivered to a wider audience because it deserves all the recognition it can get. The details concerning the project are currently pretty sparse but the script has been written and is in the process of being developed. Casting is unsure as of now, but questions regarding who’ll play Dorothea Brooke, the central protagonist, are already being asked. I’m thinking Kate Winslet might be on the cards, who’d starred under Mendes’ direction in Revolutionary Road, but Dorothea’s only nineteen in the novel, so he might have to look elsewhere…