William Monahan is the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind The Departed and is making his movie toward directing as well, though his first directorial effort, London Boulevard, has yet to hit theaters (you can watch the trailer here). Still, with that film finished he's already moving on to the next thing, and getting far away from the gangster stories that have made him famous. According to Deadline, he's planning to write and direct an adaptation of Becket, the 1959 French play about the friendship between King Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.

I can practically hear you thinking, "Huh?" and I admit I'm surprised too, having read the play in high school and remembering, er, very little of it. The play has already been adapted into a 1964 film, which won an Oscar for the screenwriter and 11 other nominations, and Monahan promises he'll be adding a new, modern modern spin to it:

"It's an adaptation, or re-invigoration, of an older play, which has already been a brilliant film. For me, it's a chance to take on one of the greatest stories in our civilization, a double tragedy with two heroes, each of them paradoxical, each of them brilliant, each of them making mistakes that lead to their undoing. The world of the Plantagenets was very rich and we'll open the play up into that world and go into the relationships of the Angevin court more than the 1964 film was able to do. To adapt something is to do a literary personalization of a story, so in that sense I'll be doing a very different Becket."

King Henry II and Becket started off as great friends when they were younger, but when Becket was promoted to Archbishop and started embracing religion more strictly, his challenges to the monarchy drove a wedge into the friendship, to the point that Becket was eventually murdered by the king's men. Though it's dressed up in a historical story, it's really just a story about a friendship falling apart, and definitely the kind of thing that's ripe for a modern take on it. I don't envy the actors who will take over the roles last played by Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton, but it's hard to imagine anyone turning down the opportunity either.

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