David Heyman is joining the chorus of making old things new again, with a proposed television adaptation of the Oscar-winning 1985 drama Out of Africa.
Heyman, best known for his work as a producer in both the Harry Potter and its related Fantastic Beasts film franchise worlds, is working with NBCUniversal International Studios to bring the story of a European plantation owner living in Kenya falling in love with a big game hunter.
Heyday Television, Heyman’s production shingle, as acquired the rights to the 1937 book that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was a memoir of Karen Blixen. He’s already brought in Susanne Bier, the Emmy-winning director of The Night Manager on AMC to direct.
“‘I had a farm in Africa’ is Blixen’s most famous line: she was a survivor, unpredictable and non-conformist, and a determined explorer. We are beyond delighted that Susanne Bier has such a passionate attachment to Karen’s story: with such critically acclaimed work in both film and television, she is the ideal director to transport us to Africa through the eyes of Denmark’s most celebrated writer.
“And of course, the long-form series offers us the chance to explore not only Karen’s world, but also the perspective of the Kenyans she encounters.”
Blixen’s novel would become one of Europe’s more celebrated works of the 20th century, and Blixen herself followed it up with a short compendium highlighting more stories from her time in Africa in 1961, called Shadows on the Grass. She died a year later at the age of 77.
The late Sydney Pollack directed the film version in 1985 that starred Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. The film would win best picture, as well as a directing trophy for Pollack. Kurt Luedtke, who would write just one more produced screenplay in 1999 for Pollack and Harrison Ford in Random Hearts, won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
Street would earn her sixth Oscar nomination to that point, losing to Geraldine Page for The Trip to Bountiful.
Out of Africa grossed $79.1 million domestically to rank sixth at the box office that year, but commanded a whopping $179.1 million overseas, beating out both Back to the Future and Rocky IV in international ticket sales.
Bier told the trade publication the series is a chance to put women front and center on the television screen through the eyes of someone who really struggled with that in a much different time.
“Karen Blixen defied the male-dominated world at every turn. Despite heavy resistance, she single-handedly ran her farm in Africa. She felt a greater kinship with the indigenous Kenyon population than any of her class peers. She both found and lost the love for which she had always longed.”
There’s no word on what outlets might air the series, or when casting and filming might begin. It’s likely a pilot (or direct-to-series proposal) would wait until there is some network, cable channel or streaming service attached.
Heyman would earn an Oscar nomination himself, by the way, as an executive producer on 2013’s Gravity.
His involvement with the Harry Potter franchise, however, has made Hollywood – in particular Warner Bros. – a lot of money over the years. In fact, since 2001, both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts have earned $8.5 billion. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which hit theaters last November, earned $232.5 million domestically, and $807.6 million globally.
Heyman also is part of the Paddington Bear franchise, with the next film in that series due next January after the first one earned $259.5 million worldwide. He’s also attached to the fantasy horror from Will Moore, The Nephilim, which has yet to get a release date.
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