Downton Abbey Director To Helm Book Thief Adaptation
The Stateside success of the BBC mini-series Downton Abbey is beginning to get its cast and crew some Hollywood notice. Just yesterday we heard that Jessica Brown Findlay, who plays the liberal-minded Lady Sybil, is being screen tested for Akiva Goldsman's Winter's Tale, and now Deadline reports that Emmy-winning Downton Abbey director Brian Percival has been hired to helm Fox 2000's adaptation of Marcus Zusak's award-winning, best-selling novel The Book Thief.
Set in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief focuses on the story of an illiterate young girl named Liesel Meminger who develops the odd habit of stealing books after the unexpected death of her younger brother. To distance her from her parents' communist ties, her mother places Liesel in foster care with Hans and Rosa Hubermann who teach her how to read and write, and make a living. Still, it's a hardscrabble life, filled with hard labor and little luxury, but Liesel manages to find friends and comfort in her covetous hobby. However, as World War II begins to shatter the peace of her new home, her stolen books become a comfort to her neighbors as well.
Narrated by Death himself, The Book Thief is a dark offering that is sure to yield some compelling drama. But who will be Fox's target audience? The novel is suggested reading for grades 9 and up, and with a young heroine who is forced to learn more about the world around her the story falls well within YA parameters. So it seems Fox may be aiming for that PG-13 cross-demographic sweet spot, an assumption that's strengthened by Fox's tapping of Michael Petroni (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Rite). So it seems the book's dark themes will be played upon, without traipsing into salacious R-rated territory. Of course, this shouldn't be a problem for Percival. Downton Abbey regularly deals in dark subject matter, from murder and conspiracy to self-mutilation and class conflict, yet is always handled in a tasteful and MPAA-friendly manner. Altogether this seems a great team for the proposed adaptation, and I'll be eagerly awaiting casting news.
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