Benedict Cumberbatch signs for ‘The Thing With Feathers’ adaptation – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: Benedict Cumberbatch has signed to star in Dylan Southern’s adaptation of Max Porter’s acclaimed novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers about a father and his two young sons dealing with the sudden death of their wife and mother.

Cumberbatch will play a young father whose hold on reality crumbles following his wife’s death as a strange presence begins to stalk him from the shadowy recesses of the apartment he shares with his two young sons.

This mysterious creature, known as “Crow”, seemingly brought to life from the pages of his work as an illustrator, becomes a very real part of all their lives, ultimately guiding them towards the new shape family must take.

The feature adaptation, entitled The Thing With Feathers, is produced by Andrea Cornwell with SunnyMarch’s Adam Ackland and Leah Clarke. The script was developed with Film4, who will executive produce and co-finance. The crow figure will be created for the screen in collaboration with the sculptor Nicola Hicks.

Max Porter’s bestselling 2016 first novel was named a Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Novel of the Twenty-first Century’ and has been sold in 29 territories. It was also adapted into a critically acclaimed stage play, which opened in Dublin in March 2018, and then toured to New York, Galway, and London.

“Having been a huge fan of Max Porter’s extraordinary book and Enda Walsh’s stage adaptation I was sceptical about a film adaptation. But the experience of reading Dylan Southern’s adaptation rekindled the cinematic memory of reading this most visceral tale of a family consumed by grief,” said Cumberbatch

“Dylan has handled the deftness of Max’s kinetic poetry masterfully. It’s so well realised both on the page and in the deck and pitch. It holds all the wildly sharp turns of changing tones and colours between the domestic and mythic, between the despair, comedy, and every day of loss. It’s a thrilling read, and I couldn’t be more excited to be taking Dylan’s cinematic vision of it to the big screen”, he added.

“We were deeply moved by Dylan Southern’s adaptation, it’s a poignant portrayal of the bond between a father and his sons. With a blend of dark humour, melancholy, and a touch of horror, it delivers a message of hope that lingers long after the story ends”, said Fionnuala Jamison, mk2 films’ Managing Director.

Dylan Southern is an award-winning writer and director, who has earned recognition in the world of feature documentaries. His current music documentary, Meet Me In The Bathroom debuted at Sundance 2022. His previous films include No Distance Left To Run, which was nominated for both a Grammy and Grierson award.

“This is a genuinely meaningful story – but it’s also scary, thrilling, and subversive – and it achieves all of the above whilst remaining unsentimental. As a director, adapting this book provides the opportunity to combine striking genre elements with drama in a way that will not only move an audience, but will frighten them and make them laugh too”, said Southern.

Writer Porter praised Southern’s sensitivity to the different layers of the original story.

“I love Dylan Southern’s adaptation of Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Dylan understands how this story is just as much about domesticity, awkward humour, the silly, fun and strange routines of raising children, as it is about inexplicable rage and pain. In Crow he has created something wild, a cinematic monster unlike anything else,” he said.

Andrea Cornwell is an award-winning film and television producer. She is currently in post-production on Love Lies Bleeding for A24 & Film4, directed by Rose Glass and starring Kristen Stewart, Ed Harris, Katy O’Brian, Jena Malone and Dave Franco.

Her previous recent credits include Clio Barnard’s limited series The Essex Serpent for AppleTV+, starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, and Glass’s horror hit Saint Maud.

SunnyMarch’s award-winning feature credits since its launch in 2013 by Ackland and Cumberbatch, include Golden Globe-winning, BAFTA-nominated The Mauritanian and The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain.

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