Netflix Adds Margaret Atwood Murder Drama 'Alias Grace' From Sarah Polley, Mary Harron
June 21, 2016 6:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
The six-hour miniseries is based on the story of convicted murderer Grace Marks and on Atwood's book of the same name.
Netflix is adding another true-crime series, this time on the scripted side.
Six months after Making a Murderer became a phenomenon, the streaming giant is partnering with Halfire Entertainment and Canadian broadcaster CBC to adapt Margaret Atwood's Canadian murder drama novel Alias Grace, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Published in 1996, 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 Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment. She 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 she was actually involved in the murder or merely an unwitting accessory.
The six-hour miniseries is inspired by the Marks' true story and will be written and produced by Sarah Polley (Looking for Alaska, Away From Her). Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol) will direct the series Production is slated to begin in August in Ontario. Polley, Harron and Noreen Halpern (NBC's Working the Engels) will exec produce; D.J. Carson (Spotlight) is on board as a co-EP. A premiere date has not been determined.
The Netflix adaptation, like Atwood's novel, will introduce a fictional young doctor named Simon Jordan who researches the case and falls in love with Marks. 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.
Alias Grace was awarded the Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Alias Grace becomes Atwood's latest book-to-TV adaptation. It joins The Handmaid's Tale, which was picked up straight to series at Hulu with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss set to star. It debuts in 2017. The author's Payback, The Robber Bride, The Sin Eater and Surfacing have also been developed for TV.
"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,” Polley said. “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."
For Halfire, Alias Grace marks the company's latest stateside series. It joins NBC's Working the Engels and Syfy's Aftermath, among others in development.
The series comes as Netflix has committed to spending $5 billion this year on original programming. It joins recently ordered dramas, including Marvel's The Punisher and fellow Canadian entry Travelers, starring Eric McCormack, as well as staples House of Cards, Marco Polo, Bloodline, Daredevil Sens8, Narcos and more.
WME/IMG negotiated the sale to Netflix on behalf of Halfire. Atwood is repped by ICM Partners. Harron is repped by APA and Circle of Confusion. Polley is with WME, Circle of Confusion and Jackoway Tyerman.