May 18, 2015
BBC to adapt Hilary Mantel’s French Revolution book
by Nick Davies
Hilary Mantel has had a smash success with her Tudor-era historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, recently turned into a successful TV adaptation by the BBC, airing in the US as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. Hoping to capitalize on that success, the BBC recently announced that it will produce an adaptation of an older book of Mantel’s, set during the French Revolution.
Sioban Fenton and Rob Ardehali report for The Independent that the BBC has started the early stages of development for A Place of Greater Safety, which Mantel published in 1992. Screenwriter Richard Warlow is working on the script; he’s previously earned praise for Ripper Street, a 2013 BBC series set in Victorian London around the Jack the Ripper murders.
Similar to Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy (the third installment, The Mirror and the Light, is scheduled to publish this year), A Place of Greater Safety “follows the dramatic ebb and flow of power and prestige in the era” of late 18th-century France. Fenton and Ardehali write that the book focuses on real-life figures Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Jacques Danton, and Camille Desmoulins, who “come together to provoke the enormous social and political upheaval that alters the course of French and European history.”
Mantel’s historical novels are meticulously researched, and while they present fictionalized versions of real people, the more salacious drama often comes fact rather than fiction. She says in her author’s note for A Place of Greater Safety that “anything that seems particularly unlikely is probably true.”
The adaptation is still in very preliminary stages, enough so that the people involved in the production have so far refused to reveal any details such as approximate air dates and casting news.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.