EXCLUSIVE: Filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) hopes to revive his dream project to make a mammoth 10-episode television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
Two years ago the director had assembled an all-star cast, including Cate Blanchett, Ralph Fiennes, Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara, to lead a ten-part prestige tv version of Waugh’s brilliant study of British upper-class decadence.
But the HBO and BBC production was shelved because of its cost. “It’s a very sad story,” Guadagnino told Deadline late on Sunday night, following a screening at the Telluride Film Festival of his latest film Bones and All, a shocking love story, starring Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell and Mark Rylance, about cannibals searching, longingly, for their next meal.
Guadagnino said that he and Benjamin Walters, a young British writer, spent 18 months writing the scripts for Brideshead Revisited. “I had a great cast and I needed the money and the money I needed was $110 million, $11 million dollars an episode, and there was no way we could put it together.”
He continued, “I said to myself: ‘I cannot compromise. It has to be done the way I want it to be done’. “
Guadagnino had gathered Garfield (tick, tick…BOOM!) to play anguished artist Charles Ryder, with the intention of splitting the part. “I wanted Garfield as the older Charles Ryder,“ he said.
He added that a younger actor would play Ryder at Oxford with Sebastian Flyte, the teddy-bear-loving son of an aristocratic Catholic family who reside at the stately home called Brideshead.
Harry Lawtey (Industry), “a wonderful young actor from the UK,” Guadagnino told us, had been in place to play Sebastian, and Rooney Mara (Women Talking) had been cast as Lady Julia, his highly strung sister.
Cate Blanchett (Tar) and Ralph Fiennes ( No Time to Die) were to have played their parents, the incredibly grand, Lord and Lady Marchmain. “I had so many others, a huge and beautiful cast. It’s maybe possible to assemble this cast again. I know these people love me,” Guadagnino said confidently.
“I want to say to HBO and the BBC: ‘Guys, let’s do it, we still have the scripts and the rights.’”
Guadagnino noted that the screenplays were “granular” and had expanded the subtext to incorporate Waugh’s own biography as well. “So, we tried to bring what we know about Waugh’s young times at Oxford into the story of Sebastian and Charles Ryder, and, of course Lord and Lady Marchmain and Julia.
”It was going to be an allegory of the fall of the West, and the fall of the ruling class, and the fall of all that. The Catholic Church was a huge deal, too,” Guadagnino said as he outlined how he envisioned the project stretching from the 1920s through to 1945.
”It’s a very dear project. I love this novel. I wrote with Benjamin Walters, the script, so it’s something so close to me. If the miracle would happen I would jump and do it. It’s the question of a miracle right now, probably.
“I truly believe in miracles,’ he said.
Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited was first brought to the screen in 1981, with the landmark ITV production starring Jeremy Irons as Ryder, Anthony Andrews as Sebastian and Diana Quick as Julia. Laurence Olivier and Claire Bloom played Lord and Lady Marchmain.
In 2008, Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots and The Crown) directed a feature film version starring Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell with Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon.
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