(June 21, 2016 – Toronto, ON) It is one of Margaret Atwood’s finest novels. The award-winning Alias Grace is a retelling of the historical true story of convicted murderer Grace Marks. It was announced today that the story will become a six-hour mini-series written and produced by Sarah Polley (Take this Waltz, Away from Her) that will be directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol).
Halfire Entertainment will begin production in Ontario in August of this year and the mini-series will be broadcast in Canada on CBC and will stream everywhere globally on Netflix.
The story of Alias Grace follows Grace Marks, a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott, was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843. James was hanged while Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment. Grace became one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of 1840s Canada for her supposed role in the sensational double murder, and was eventually exonerated after 30 years in jail. Her conviction was controversial, and sparked much debate about whether Grace was actually involved in the murder, or merely an unwitting accessory.
“Sarah Polley wrote a stunning six-hour script, based on Margaret Atwood’s award-winning novel, and we are thrilled that CBC and Netflix have joined forces to co-commission this miniseries,” said Noreen Halpern, President of Halfire Entertainment.
“I first read Alias Grace when I was 17 years old and throughout the last 20 years I have read it over and over, trying to get to the bottom of it,” said Polley. “Grace Marks, as captured by Margaret Atwood, is the most complex, riveting character I have ever read. I’m thrilled that Mary Harron has taken the project on. I know that her ability to create suspense, tension, and delve into the dark, unknowable aspects of her characters will bring this piece alive. I can’t wait for us to bring the many versions of Grace’s gripping story, and the questions they raise, to television audiences.”
Both the screen adaptation and the Margaret Atwood novel on which the mini-series is based, introduce a fictional young doctor named Simon Jordan who researches the case and begins to fall in love with Grace. He soon becomes obsessed with her as he seeks to reconcile his perception of the mild-mannered woman he sees with the savage murder of which she has been convicted.
“Sarah Polley has done a brilliant adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel, which combines the richness of period drama with the tension and mystery of a modern day ‘Serial’,” said Mary Harron. “It is an honour to be chosen to take this captivating story to the screen and to give new audiences the thrill of watching it unfold.”
“We’re beyond thrilled to collaborate with this amazingly talented team of Canadian women to bring Sarah Polley’s stunning script to Canadian audiences,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Programming, CBC Television. “This important work tells the story of a complex woman, and I can’t imagine a more exceptional team to bring Margaret Atwood’s novel to the screen.”
“The opportunity to be involved with Alias Grace and world class storytellers was an opportunity we could not pass up,” said Elizabeth Bradley, Netflix Vice President of Content. “We are looking forward to working with our partners at Halfire Entertainment and CBC to bring this compelling miniseries to our worldwide audience.”
Alias Grace executive producers will be Sarah Polley, Mary Harron and Noreen Halpern (Aftermath, Working the Engels, Rookie Blue). Co-producing alongside Polley will be D.J. Carson (Spotlight). Polley was nominated for an adapted screenplay Academy Award for the 2006 drama Away from Her, which was adapted from the Alice Munro short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain.
Published in 1996, Alias Grace was awarded the Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Additional books by Atwood that have been adapted for film and television include The Handmaid’s Tale, Payback, The Robber Bride, The Sin Eater and Surfacing. Kids’ CBC recently greenlit an animated series based on Atwood’s children’s book The Wide World of Wandering Wenda.
Halfire Entertainment was founded in 2013 by seasoned TV executive Noreen Halpern to develop, produce, and finance television series and miniseries for the Canadian, U.S., and international marketplace. Halfire Entertainment has offices in Toronto and Los Angeles.