The ‘Lion’ actor is leading a retelling of a Dickensian classic.
Dev Patel will play the titular character in a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account),” according to Variety. The film will be titled The Personal History of David Copperfield.
Veep creator and The Death of Stalin writer/director Armando Iannucci is behind the project, a retelling of the classic story that was somewhat based on Dickens’ own life. The novel tells the story of Copperfield, who goes from a loving but difficult childhood and goes on to find fame and fortune as a successful author. Iannucci, who will direct the film, also co-wrote this version with longtime collaborator Simon Blackwell.
Previous adaptations of “David Copperfield” include a 1935 film directed by George Cukor that is remembered now for the surprise success of comedian W.C. Fields’ performance as Wilkins Micawber, the character in the story based on Dickens’ father. Another version, which the BBC released as two-part television event on Christmas Day in 1999, is remembered for featuring future Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe’s first on-screen role.
BBC Films, which announced the new film in 2015 as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations, said this version would be a “fresh take” on the classic novel. This is a pretty common approach to the world of Charles Dickens. The more popular adaptations of his works tend to be set closer to the current time and are given a more modern retelling. Alfonso Cuaron’s Great Expectations from 1998 takes the original early 1800s London setting and relocates it to 1990s New York City. There’s also the 1988 animated film Oliver & Company loosely based on “Oliver Twist,” and that same year Scrooged sees cruel television executive Bill Murray visited by ghosts and being taught a lesson about the true meaning of the holidays a la “A Christmas Carol.”
The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fitting project for Patel, who has been making a career out of starring in adapted works. He previously received Oscar buzz both for his film debut, Slumdog Millionaire, which is based on the novel “Q & A,” and Lion, which is based on the nonfiction biography “The Long Way Home.” His next film, Hotel Mumbai, is based on the 2008 Mumbai attacks that took place at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India and is adapted from the documentary Surviving Mumbai.