Last year, fans of epic First World War novel Birdsong, written by Sebastian Faulks, were finally treated to an on-screen version of the story. Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables, My Week with Marilyn) and Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter, 127 Hours) starred in a two-part adaptation which aired on the BBC. This interpretation won many admirers and had an impressive sense of scale for a TV series. However, many fans of the book still eagerly await a fully-fledged cinematic version.
Over the years there have been numerous surges in the film industry to adapt Faulks’ vision, but all attempts have ultimately ended in failure, after becoming bogged down in no-man’s-land (pardon the awful pun). A plethora of leading men have been linked to, or even contracted to play, the novel’s hero, Stephen Wraysford. Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Side Effects) was a very strong possibility at one point and Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Dorian Gray), famous for his royal status in Narnia, has played the character on-stage in the West End reworking.
Now, according to Empire, Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) is attached to a new adaptation attempt. And the latest news is that Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, Warm Bodies), one of the industry’s current rising stars, has signed on to star as Wraysford.
Hoult could find it a real challenge to compete with Redmayne’s portrayal of the character in the recent TV series. Both men are young and talented, and on a rich run of form of late. A lot will depend on how Wyatt is choosing to adapt Faulks’ tale of romance and the horrors of war. The West End play, and the BBC version, both chose to drop the strand of the novel set in the 1970s, in which Stephen’s granddaughter researches his life.
This would seem to be the weakest part of the book, but could Wyatt set his adaptation apart by keeping it and adding emotional resonance for his modern audience? There will probably be problems with the runtime if he does, as there’s a pre-war love affair in rural France, the terrible terror of the trenches and the post-war aftermath to squeeze in. Personally, I thought the BBC’s Birdsong had some key flaws and I’m intrigued to see what Wyatt and Hoult do with the enormous potential of Faulks’ source material.
Of course, there’s a strong possibility this adaptation won’t get beyond pre-production, just like the ones that went before.
Is Nicholas Hoult ready to be a leading man? Do we need another adaptation of Birdsong? Comment below with your thoughts.