Campion will direct from a script she adapted, with See-Saw Films’ in-house sales arm, Cross City Films, launching sales at this month’s Cannes Film Festival. The movie will go into pre-production at the end of the year.
“‘The Power of the Dog’ is a sublime novel that deserves a life on the big screen. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, it really haunted me. The themes of masculinity, nostalgia and betrayal are an intoxicating mix,” Campion said. “It’s also rare to find a story where the themes, the plot and the characters build tension as they reveal each other and even the end is satisfying and unexpected. It will be the first time I’ve worked with a male lead, which is exciting. Phil is a charismatic and complex character who declares war on his brother’s new wife and her teenage son.”
The book tells the story of wealthy Montana brothers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George Burbank. Phil is brilliant and cruel, while George is fastidious and gentle. Together, they are joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. When George secretly marries local widow Rose (Moss), an angry Phil wages a relentless war to destroy her by using her son Peter as a pawn.
Popular on Variety
The pic is a See-Saw Films and Big Shell Films/Max Films production in association with Brightstar. It originated with producer Roger Frappier of Max Films, who held the rights to the novel. Frappier offered the property to Campion following a meeting at a recent Cannes Film Festival.
Campion then tapped “Cold War” producer Tanya Seghatchian of Brightstar to partner with her to bring the project to life. She also approached her longtime collaborators, producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning at See-Saw Films, who executive produced her TV series “Top of the Lake,” to drive the financing and physical production. The project has been developed with BBC Films, who are also backing production. BBC Films’ Rose Garnett, See-Saw film COO Simon Gillis and Brightstar’s John Woodward will serve as executive producers.
The production deal was negotiated by Gillis and See-Saw head of business affairs Rebecca Hardman, alongside Kate Richter of HLA Management on behalf of Campion, Stephen Saltzman of Paul Hastings and Peter Meyer of Meyer Management on behalf of Max Films, Nel Malikova on behalf of Hachette Book Group, Elizabeth Savage and Jeremy Gawade of Lee & Thompson on behalf of Brightstar, and Geraldine Atlee on behalf of BBC Films.
Cumberbatch recently starred in the massive Marvel hits “Avengers: Endgame” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” in addition to lending his voice to the title character in “The Grinch.” On the TV side, he starred in HBO’s “Brexit” and also has the Amazon series “Good Omens.” He just finished filming Sam Mendes’ World War I pic “1917” and is also attached to topline the sequel to “Doctor Strange.”
Moss was most recently seen in the horror hit “Us,” which has grossed more than $250 million at the worldwide box office. She’s starring in the rock drama “Her Smell” and also has the crime drama “The Kitchen” bowing later this year. She is also returning for the third season of the Emmy-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which premieres this summer, and also signed on to star in “The Invisible Man” reboot.
Campion won the Academy Award for screenplay for “The Piano.” She became the first, and to date only, female director to be awarded the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. Her limited series “Top of the Lake” won the 2013 Emmy for cinematography for a miniseries or movie, as well as the 2014 Golden Globe for an actress in a miniseries or movie for Moss. Campion created, co-wrote and directed the follow-up, “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” which was one of the first TV series ever to be included in the Cannes Film Festival’s official selection.
Campion is repped by HLA Management in Australia. Cumberbatch is repped by UTA in the U.S. and Conway van Gelder Grant in the U.K. Moss is repped by WME, Ribisi Entertainment Group, Viewpoint and Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman in the U.S., and Independent Talent Group in the U.K.