The Crimson Petal and the White

Romola Garai (Emma, Atonement), Chris O’Dowd (IT Crowd, The Boat That Rocked), Gillian Anderson (The X Files, Bleak House), Richard E Grant (Withnail And I, Gosford Park), Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Charles II), Amanda Hale (Murderland, Bright Star) and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, The League Of Gentlemen) have begun filming on BBC Two’s bold four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s international best-selling novel, The Crimson Petal And The White, made by Origin Pictures.

Adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon, and directed by award-winning Marc Munden (The Devil’s Whore, The Mark Of Cain), this intimate psychological thriller lifts the lid on the darker side of Victorian London revealing a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, says: “A really fresh and surprising cast will bring this provocative tale to life reinforcing the new ambition for drama on BBC Two.”

David Thompson, producer for Origin Pictures, says: “Origin Pictures is thrilled to be bringing to screen this extraordinary, sexually-charged story which will certainly shake up the audience’s perceptions of conventional period drama. I’m delighted we’ve assembled such a striking cast and such a bold and imaginative director.”

This provocative and riveting tale tells the story of Sugar (Romola Garai), an alluring, intelligent young prostitute who yearns for a better life away from the brothel she is attached to – run by the contemptible Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson).

Highly sought after and sexually adept, Sugar finds her only comfort in the secret novel she is writing in which a murderous prostitute takes revenge on her clients. However, things change for her when she meets wealthy businessman William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd).

Sugar is a thrilling antidote to William’s life, saddled with a pious brother, Henry Rackham (Mark Gatiss), and fragile wife, Agnes Rackham (Amanda Hale). Agnes regularly endures visits from the invasive physician Doctor Curlew (Richard E Grant), leaving her unable to perform her wifely duties.

William ensconces Sugar as his mistress and she soon grows accustomed to her new life. Yet, unbeknownst to William, Sugar begins to hatch a plan which sets a series of events in motion that will change their lives for ever.

The supporting cast also includes Tom Georgeson (Bleak House), Liz White (Life On Mars), Blake Ritson (Emma) and Bertie Carvel (Sherlock).

This riveting account of life in the world of Victorian prostitution is packed with detail and texture. An intelligent tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true sexual politics of Victorian life – in a way never seen before on screen. In the words of the heroine Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”

Filming has begun on this 4×60′ drama, commissioned for BBC Two by Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama, and Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two. The executive producer for the BBC is Lucy Richer and the producer for Origin Pictures is David Thompson, who will produce with Steven Lightfoot.

All four episodes are being directed by Marc Munden (The Devil’s Whore, The Mark Of Cain). It is a UK-Canada co-production, co-produced with Cite-Amerique.

This announcement further demonstrates BBC Two’s commitment to re-establish its reputation as the home of intelligent and ambitious drama reflecting the new strategy and investment for drama on the channel.

Two distinctive, intelligent and ambitious dramas reflecting the new strategy and investment for drama on BBC Two were announced by Janice Hadlow, Controller BBC Two, at the Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today.

A four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s international best selling novel, The Crimson Petal & The White, and the story of Morecambe and Wise and their relationship with Eric’s mother, starring Victoria Wood, represent some of the best new dramas lined up for the channel over the next year.

In September 2009, Director of Vision, Jana Bennett, committed to extra investment for drama on the channel over the next three years and to making BBC Two the home of BBC Films – the film-making arm of the BBC.

This was to help Janice Hadlow and Ben Stephenson, Controller Drama Commissioning, re-establish BBC Two’s reputation as the home of intelligent and ambitious drama. The BBC Strategic Review has also proposed extra funding for drama on BBC Two from 2012 to help ensure a more consistent presence on the channel.

Announcing today’s new commissions, Janice Hadlow said:

“Strongly authored dramas, whether adaptation or original writing, are absolutely key to the creation of BBC Two’s confident new voice and these two dramas are excellent examples of the new direction we are moving in.

“Crimson Petal & The White is an exciting combination of a 19th-century novel, written in the 21st century and adapted for screen by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon. It’s a riveting tale of life in the world of Victorian prostitution – packed with detail and texture in a way that has never been attempted before.

“A drama about Morecambe and Wise’s formative years, written by the brilliant Peter Bowker, and, of course, the recently announced Christopher And His Kind, with Matt Smith playing writer Christopher Isherwood, are the kind of impactful, ambitious and intelligent dramas I want at the heart of BBC Two.

“I can also announce that BBC Films will make BBC Two its permanent home from July with a special launch weekend, showcasing three of their films: The Damned United, Eastern Promises and Is Anybody There? I’m delighted that BBC Films will have a more permanent presence on the channel, so that audiences know where they can see these wonderful films for free after their theatrical release.”

The Crimson Petal & The White

This four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s international best-selling novel is a major new bold and original serial drama for BBC Two from Origin Pictures.

Adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon, directed by Marc Munden (The Devil’s Whore, The Mark Of Cain), and executive produced for Origin Pictures by David Thompson, this is an evocative, sexually charged tale that takes us into a hidden world. In the words of the heroine Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”

A tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true underbelly of Victorian underground life, in a way never seen before on screen.

This provocative and riveting emotional tale focuses on a young prostitute and a prominent businessman, who embark on a dangerous relationship with epic consequences. The drama will transport viewers into a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.

An intimate psychological thriller which will lift the lid on the dark side of Victorian London.

Morecambe and Wise drama (title tbc)

From children’s variety stars to national treasures, this drama is about the making of one of the best comedy double acts of our time – Morecambe and Wise.

Starring Victoria Wood as Morecambe’s mother, it is written by Peter Bowker (Desperate Romantics, Occupation) and made by production company Blue Door Adventures and BBC Wales Drama Production.

A chance meeting between precocious child star Ernie Wiseman (Wise) and reluctant performer Eric Bartholomew (Morecambe) on the children’s variety circuit saw the start of an unlikely friendship. Encouraged by his well-meaning but pushy mother Sadie ( played by Victoria Wood), because “You aren’t good at anything else”, Eric Morecambe became the funny man to Ernie Wise’s “feed”.

After a successful stint in children’s variety, Eric and Ernie struggled to make their way in the world of mainstream entertainment. But a few dubious tours and an ill-advised television series, Running Wild, later, Morecambe and Wise learnt to trust their own instincts and just make people laugh – and laugh they did.

Christopher And His Kind

This 90-minute film chronicles the formative years of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated writers, Christopher Isherwood, based on his 1976 memoir of the same name.

Isherwood is played by Matt Smith (Doctor Who), who escapes repressive English society and his suffocating relationship with his mother (Lindsay Duncan) for the decadent – and politically unstable – world of Thirties Berlin.

The drama is written by acclaimed playwright Kevin Elyot (My Night With Reg), directed by Geoffrey Sax (Tipping The Velvet) and produced by Celia Duval (Margot) for Mammoth Screen, with Michele Buck, Kevin Elyot and Damien Timmer as executive producers. With Eleanor Moran, BBC executive producer, through Piers Wenger, Head of Drama, BBC Wales.

The drama is being made with the assistance of Northern Ireland Screen.

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