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After TV, Hollywood discovers Evelyn

Hollywood is producing a major film adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel, Brideshead Revisited. But it is taking a different approach to Granada, which made the hit television series.

Warner Brothers is developing the project with Ecosse Films, which made such period pieces as Mrs Brown, with Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly, and Charlotte Gray.

Andrew Davies, noted for the controversy over his adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, with its lesbian themes, is writing the script about the dreaming spires of Oxford and effete upper-class Englishmen.

He told Screen International that he had a “darker, more heterosexual” approach to the novel than the television series.

Instead of Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte’s relationship, Davies is concentrating on the doomed love affair between Charles and Julia Flyte.

His script explores how Roman Catholicism destroys their relationship and families.

Davies is Britain’s most prominent television costume drama writer.

His credits include Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair, Dr Zhivago and the screenplay for the worldwide hit Bridget Jones’s Diary.

He said: “I am much less enamoured of all that Oxford snobbery than some people.”

Of his script, the first draft of which is finished, Davies said: “It is written from the point of view of someone who does not believe in the religious themes as Waugh did. If God can be said to exist in my version, he would be the villain.”

Douglas Rae, head of Ecosse, said he too was aiming for a fresh approach to the novel.

Once the finalised script was delivered, probably in a fortnight, he would “cast the net wide” for a director.

The film chief said he was a fervent admirer of directors such as Ang Lee, who made Sense and Sensibility, and Roman Polanski, who directed Tess in England.

Polanski recently won an Oscar for the Holocaust epic The Pianist. Unable to return to the US, from which he fled after sex charges long ago, he lives in Paris, where he might be persuaded to take on the project.

Lionel Wigram, senior vice-president of production for Warner Brothers, led the talks for the studio on securing Brideshead. He had worked closely with Ecosse on Charlotte Gray.

The studio has the first option to distribute the film worldwide.

Rae said his aim was to start shooting the picture next year.

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