×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Benedict Cumberbatch to Star in WWII Drama ‘The War Magician’

Benedict Cumberbatch will star in World War II drama “The War Magician” — a project that’s been in development since 2003.

Storyscape Entertainment principals Bob Cooper and Richard Saperstein have attached the British actor to the project with StudioCanal on board to finance and distribute in its territories. The project, based on David Fisher’s fact-based novel, will be be adapted by “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” writer Gary Whitta.

“The War Magician” will be a co-production between Storyscape Entertainment, Tony Eldridge’s Lonetree Entertainment and Cumberbatch’s own production company SunnyMarch, with SunnyMarch partners Adam Ackland and Adam Selves producing.

No director is attached yet.

Tom Cruise and producing partner Paul Wagner originally optioned the book in 2003 and attached Peter Weir to direct. In 2012, Marc Forster was attached to direct, but fell out of the project.

Cumberbatch will play the titular British hero Jasper Maskelyne, the magician whose illusions helped the allied forces fight against the Nazis during World War II. Maskelyne put together a “dirty dozen” of accomplices known as “The Magic Gang,” who were able to make tanks, troops and buildings seem to disappear, along with conjuring phony armies.

Maskelyne and his associates also managed conceal the Alexandria harbor and the Suez Canal, where there were 150,000 men with 1,000 guns and tanks, turning the tide of the war against General Rommel and the Germans in North Africa.

He created a bogus Alexandria harbor that attracted most of the nightly bombing raids and shielded troops in the Suez through anti-aircraft searchlights and mirrors that blinded Nazi pilots. Maskelyne’s techniques resulted in Adolf Hitler adding him to his personal blacklist alongside men like Douglas MacArthur and British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery.

Cumberbatch received a best actor Oscar nomination for his role as codebreaker Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game” last year.

Cooper told Variety that discussions with Cumberbatch about the role of Maskelyne began last year while “The Imitation Game” was gathering steam for its awards season campaign.

“The Maskelyne character is so different from the one that Benedict portrayed in ‘The Imitation Game’ in that Maskelyne was very outgoing and confident,” Cooper said. “We think this is a perfect blend of acting talent with material.”

Ron Halpern, StudioCanal’s exec VP of international production, said, “Both ‘Imitation Game’ and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ were phenomenal successes for StudioCanal, and we are thrilled to be in business with Benedict Cumberbatch on this extraordinary project.”

Producers are planning to shoot in locations throughout Europe and the Middle East. UTA packaged the project and negotiated the financing arrangement along with John Grant of Conway van Gelder Grant.

Whitta co-wrote the upcoming “Star Wars” standalone movie “Rogue One” with Chris Weitz and the TV series “Star Wars Rebels.” He is currently adapting the Mark Millar comic “Starlight” for Fox and producer Simon Kinberg.

Storyscape Entertainment is a new joint venture between Cooper and Saperstein as a film and television production company with a recent first-look feature deal with Broad Green Pictures. Its projects include “FBI Wedding” at Universal with Jason Bateman starring and directing and “Stealing Time” at DreamWorks with Tim Dowling writing and Colin Trevorrow executive producing.

Cooper recently wrapped production on “Maudie,” starring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins, and Saperstein recently began pre-production on the remake of “The Blob,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Eldridge teamed with Escape Artists to produce Sony’s “The Equalizer” with Denzel Washington starring and is attached to produce the sequel.

Besides “The Imitation Game,” StudioCanal’s credits include Tom Hardy’s “Legend,” “Paddington” and “Shaun the Sheep.”

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content