Here’s a sentence you should be quite used to hearing at this point: Netflix is putting together a fantastic sounding series that a cast of superstars have signed on to join. In this particular case, it’s a miniseries adaptation of the classic novel Watership Down, and the four actors with their names and voices in the hat are Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ John Boyega, Iron Man 3 villain Ben Kingsley, X-Men leader James McAvoy, X-Men beast-man Nicholas Hoult, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ Gemma Arterton. Feel free to stand there with your mouth gaping open for a while.
This new take on Watership Down, which will be told across four hour-long installments, will be a co-production with the BBC, which explains why this whole cast comes from across the pond. It also implies that the subject matter will be treated with staunch maturity, lest anyone fear this project would resemble the Dreamworks Animation spinoffs that Netflix is fond of picking up. It’s hard to imagine this classic story being told with anything less than steely-eyed seriousness.
Published in 1972, Watership Down is author Richard Adams’ powerful tale of anthropomorphized rabbits navigating the dangers of the surrounding world in escaping the impending demolition of their warren. This new take will be written by My Big Fat Diary’s Tom Bidwell and directed by 300: Rise of an Empire helmer Noam Murro. The novel was famously made into the somewhat disturbing 1978 feature from Martin Rosen, as well as an animated TV series, so it’ll be interesting to see how this version will compare and if it will be worth the effort.
A badass in live-action, John Boyega will get on with more of the same in animation as Bigwig, named for his fluffy appearance. He is the rabbit who knows how to fight better than most, and his size is a big help there. If you want someone to take on a tough job, you call up Bigwig.
James McAvoy will handle main character duties as Hazel, a leader among bunnies whose talents aren’t limited to getting others motivated and inspired to further the cause. Something that someone who plays Charles Xavier should have no problem with.
Hazel’s younger brother Fiver will be voiced by Nicholas Hoult. Fiver is the one who sees the trouble coming to the Sandleford warren. With his visions comes wisdom, as well as the feeling of responsibility for the things that he sees.
No stranger to playing villains, Ben Kingsley will take on voicing the antagonist General Woundwort, the Chief of Efrafa whose single-mindedness helps him capable of seemingly anything he wants. His reputation precedes him, and his efforts will not be taken lightly.
As the soft Angora rabbit Clover, Gemma Arterton won’t be playing a character as important as the rest, but her role has changed from one adaptation to the next. The fact that Arterton is voicing her probably means the Hutch rabbits will play a decent enough role in the story.
There were other castings as well. According to TheWrap, Broadchurch star Olivia Colman will voice Strawberry, English comedian Miles Jupp will play Blackberry, Victor Frankenstein’s Freddie Fox will voice Captain Holly and Suffragette’s Anne-Marie Duff will take on Hyzenthlay.
Netflix has been busy lately. Earlier today, the streaming giant ordered up another season of Wet Hot American Summer, and there are roughly a billion shows coming in the future. It’s not clear exactly when we’ll get to see Watership Down hitting the binge-ready service, but we imagine the animation will take a while. At least there are only four hours, though. And considering how rarely Netflix likes to end shows, we can probably expect an announcement for a Tales from Watership Down adaptation coming in the future.