Neil Gaiman: “Would I cast Benedict Cumberbatch in a Neverwhere movie? Just watch me!”

The author says the stars assembled for the Radio 4 adaptation of his fantasy novel were good enough for Hollywood

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Fantasy author Neil Gaiman says the star-studded cast of the recent Radio 4 dramatisation of his novel Neverwhere were of such a high calibre they could be transplanted straight to Hollywood to make a big budget movie adaptation of the book.

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“The amazing thing about Neverwhere [on Radio 4] was that you could just as easily have taken that cast without changing a single soul and made a $300m Hollywood movie and not have lost anything,” Gaiman told RadioTimes.com.

“Would I cast James McAvoy as Richard Mayhew in Neverwhere the film? Absolutely. Would I cast Benedict Cumberbatch as the Angel Islington? Oh, just watch me!

“From that point of view I thought it was really perfect casting.”

Neverwhere tells the story of London Below, a magical realm beneath the capital where familiar landmarks take on added significance. The Radio 4 adaptation cast Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch as the Angel Islington – an actual angel – while Christopher Lee was the Earl of Earl’s Court.

Fellow Hollywood star James McAvoy was Richard Mayhew, an ordinary man who finds himself drawn into the dangerous but exhilarating subterranean world, while Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer and Homeland’s David Harewood also played key roles.

“I just watched as the magical casting happened,” said Gaiman, “but later, reading a Radio Times article, I discovered that a lot of it had to do with James McAvoy just being a huge Neverwhere fan – and Natalie Dormer was as well – so those guys were just ‘Oh, yeah, lead me to it – we’re in!’ and I think the fact they all said yes right off the bat, with enthusiasm and delight, meant that everybody else was on board.”

Whether a movie version of Neverwhere will ever happen is, of course, a different matter. But perhaps for fans of Cumberbatch, McAvoy and co the petition should start here…

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Neil Gaiman’s new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane is published by Headline on 18 June