Amber sets fantasy feature ‘Molly Moon’

Raffey Cassidy stars; Janet McTeer in talks

Amber Entertainment is going to “Molly Moon,” launching production this month with Christopher Rowley (“Bonneville”) directing an adaptation of Georgia Byng’s fantasy novel about an orphan who learns the art of hypnosis.

Raffey Cassidy will star as Molly opposite Janet McTeer, who is in negotiations to play the head of the orphanage. Offers are out for roles to Joan Collins, Charles Dance and Trudie Styler.

Producers are Amber partners Ileen Maisel and Lawrence Elman along with Byng and Simon Bosanquet. Script was penned by Byng and Chris Hurford with a polish by Tom Butterworth and Byng.

Pic is financed through equity and U.K. tax credits; shooting starts in London on Oct. 29. Camela Galano’s Speranza 13 banner will be selling territories at the American Film Market, which launches Oct. 31.

“We’ve found the spookiest building — one that we were told has been haunted — to use as the orphanage,” Byng told Variety. “It was a challenge for me to condense the story into a movie script. You really have to remove myself from the original work to make that happen.”

“Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism,” published in 2002, follows the orphan as she finds a mysterious old book on hypnotism and discovers she can make people do whatever she wants. But a sinister stranger will do anything to steal her secret.

Byng has since written five other Molly Moon books in which she learns the arts of time travel, time-stopping, mind reading and morphing. “I’m not sure if I’ll do a seventh,” she added.

“Harry Potter” producer David Heyman acquired feature rights to the first book a decade ago, but that option lapsed, and New Line considered the property five years later. Former New Line exec Maisel began discussing the film project with Byng a few years ago.

Amber’s approach has been to acquire and convert recognizable properties such as novels by Gerald Browne, Judy Blume and Jackie Collins into films, with the authors becoming partners in the productions.

Amber’s in post-production on “Romeo and Juliet,” starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth, and produced thriller “The Frozen Ground,” starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack, with Emmett/Furla Films. It partnered with Haxan Films on “Lovely Molly,” from “Blair Witch” director Eduardo Sanchez; that pic premiered in Toronto’s Midnight Madness section last year and will be distribbed domestically by Image Entertainment.

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