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Colin Callender’s Playground Options ‘The Widow,’ ‘Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories’

Playground's productions include 'Wolf Hall,' starring Mark Rylance

Wolf Hall
Courtesy of PBS

LONDON — Colin Callender’s production company Playground, whose credits include Hilary Mantel adaptation “Wolf Hall,” has optioned two books, Fiona Barton’s psychological thriller “The Widow” and Thomas Grant’s nonfiction account of a lawyer’s life, “Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories.”

The deals follow Playground’s recent optioning of Patrick Kingsley’s “The New Odyssey — The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis,” which will be published in May.

“The Widow” is about the wife of a man who is accused — and eventually cleared — of kidnapping and murdering a child. Throughout this ordeal, the woman, Jean, stands by her man, the ever loyal and supportive wife, seemingly refusing to believe anything the police or press accused him of. But when he suddenly dies, both the law and the media want answers. Surely Jean must know the truth about what happened?

“Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories” is an entertaining and thought-provoking biography of a celebrated British lawyer. It follows Hutchinson, now 101 years old, through some of his most controversial cases, from the sex and spying scandals that contributed to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s resignation in 1963, and the subsequent fall of the Conservative government, to the fight against literary censorship through his defense of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and “Fanny Hill.”

Hutchinson defended Soviet spy George Blake; Christine Keeler, the young woman at the heart of the Profumo Affair; Great Train robber Charlie Wilson; art “faker” Tom Keating; and Howard Marks, who was acquitted of charges relating to the largest importation of cannabis in British history.

Louise Pedersen, managing director of Playground UK, said: “We bought both of these books at manuscript stage, and it is great to see them find such a wide readership. We are confident that both titles will make compelling television adaptations.”

Sophie Gardiner, creative director of Playground UK, added: “Though one book is fiction and the other is nonfiction, both books feature striking central characters caught up in stories that speak to the key issues of our time and should appeal to a wide-ranging audience. Both titles are exactly the kind of thought-provoking writing that we are looking to develop.”

New York-based Playground was founded in 2012, and set up its London office last year to expand the company’s presence in the U.K. Recent productions include “Wolf Hall,” starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis, for the BBC and PBS’ “Masterpiece,” and an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s “The Dresser,” starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins, and directed by Richard Eyre, for the BBC and Starz.

The company is in pre-production in the U.K. on Kenneth Lonergan’s four-part miniseries adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel “Howards End” for the BBC.