Award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies has been signed up to adapt Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace for BBC1. The new drama – which is due to be broadcast in 2015 – will be presented in six hour-long instalments, and will focus on the book’s human relationships rather than its lengthy philosophical elements.
Tolstoy’s 1,225 page novel follows the 19th century story of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia and its effects on three central protagonists – Pierre, Andrei and Natasha. It is regarded by many to be one of the greatest novels of all time and this will be its first serialisation on British television for 40 years.
Davies is well known for his TV adaptations of classic novels, having worked on dramatisations of Sense and Sensibility, Vanity Fair and, most memorably, the BBC’s Bafta and Emmy Award-winning Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
Of his latest role, Davies said: “Not just a great novel, it’s a wonderful read and it’ll make a wonderful serial. A thrilling, funny and heartbreaking story of love, war and family life.
“The characters are so natural and human and easy to identify with and Natasha Rostova just beats Lizzy Bennet as the most lovable heroine in literature.”
BBC1 controller, Danny Cohen added: “War and Peace is truly epic in scale and builds on BBC1’s commitment to bringing audiences drama of the highest quality and impact. Told over six episodes, Andrew Davies will bring his exceptional powers of adaptation to this literary masterpiece.”
Speaking to the Telegraph about the public demand for period drama – based on the success of the likes of Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife – Davies observed, “From time to time there is a move to do a little less in the way of period dramas, but people rebel. Audiences say we want them.
“There is a big hunger for them. I don’t think it’s sentimentality or nostalgia, it’s often that they are simply the best stories. I’m absolutely delighted if people think of me as a reliable purveyor of quality period stuff.”
And hinting at Colin Firth’s infamous lake scene in Pride and Prejudice, Davies suggested he might recreate his success with “proud, haughty, cynical” Andrei whom he describes as “very much the Darcy figure”.
“We want to get the women of England excited about one or two of the male stars,” he added.