Big names to film The Luminaries in NZ

Some big names from the silver screen have been revealed for the BBC adaptation of Eleanor Catton's award-winning novel The Luminaries, set largely in goldrush Hokitika.

The six-part series will be filmed principally in Auckland, starting in November.

BBC Two announced this week that actor Marton Csokas (The Equaliser, Lord of the Rings, Into the Badlands) will play the role of Francis Carver, while French actress Eva Green (Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful, Sin City, A Dame to Kill For) has been cast as Lydia Wells, and Irish actress Eve Hewson (Robin Hood, The Knick, Bridge of Spies) as Anna Wetherell. Hewson is the daughter of U2 singer Bono.

Adapted from Catton's Booker Prize winning novel, the series will screen on TVNZ and BBC Two in the United Kingdom.

Catton, the youngest person to win the Man Booker Prize, has adapted her 800-page novel for the small screen in six 60-minute episodes. The series will be directed by Claire McCarthy (Ophelia, The Waiting City), and produced by Working Title Television and Southern Lights Films.

Executive producer is the acclaimed Tim Bevan, who comes with impressive credentials -- Four Weddings and a Funeral, Elizabeth, Notting Hill, Billy Elliot, Bridget Jones's Diary, Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour.

Queenstown-born Bevan said of The Luminaries: "I was born and bred in gold country, so loved Ellie's stunning novel from the moment it was published. It's great that Working Title Television is teaming up with Southern Light Films and a strong New Zealand team to turn it into a special piece of television."

Catton said she had "tremendous fun" working on the series and she can't wait to see the cast bring her story to life.

"Writing a novel is a solitary business, but writing for the screen is emphatically collaborative, and to see the world of The Luminaries enlarged and enriched in ways that go far beyond the scope of my own imagination has been a humbling and hugely exhilarating experience. I couldn't be happier that the brilliant Claire McCarthy is at the helm, and I can't wait to see this incredible cast bring the story to life."

Csokas said he was looking forward to returning home to New Zealand to film the series later this year.

"It's an honour to play a part in bringing this epic New Zealand story to the screen."

Eva Green says: "I'm thrilled to be joining Working Title and this wonderful team. Eleanor has written a series of brilliant screenplays. I loved her original novel and it's so exciting that her own screen adaptation reveals yet more exquisite material."

Claire McCarthy adds: "Ever since I read Eleanor's incredible novel I've been completely captivated by the rich world she has created. What an honour to bring this beautiful and original work to the screen. I'm delighted to be joining forces with such wonderful actors and dynamic creative team."

The Luminaries is set in 1865-66 goldrush Hokitika.

It tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the West Coast in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush.

The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?

The Luminaries episodes will be produced by Working Title Television -- a joint venture between NBC Universal International Studios, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner; and Southern Light Films for BBC Two, in association with TVNZ.

The series will be executive produced by Eleanor Catton; Mona Qureshi for the BBC; Andrew Woodhead, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner for Working Title Television; Christian Vesper for Fremantle; Claudia Bluemhuber for Silver Reel; and Tim White for Southern Light Films with producer Lisa Chatfield and co-producer Judith Trye. The series will be sold internationally by Fremantle.

The Luminaries has been supported by the New Zealand Film Commission.

 - Janna Sherman and Laura Mills

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