Ian McEwan is having discussions about a film adaptation of new novel Nutshell

The author already has On Chesil Beach and The Children Act in production – but how would a movie narrated by a 38-year-old foetus work?


Author Ian McEwan has seen a string of his novels adapted into big-name Hollywood movies, but he knew his latest book, Nutshell, was unlikely to make the big screen, due to its unusual narrator – a 38-week-old foetus.


“I did think,” he said during an appearance at Cheltenham Literature Festival, “when I was halfway through writing it, ‘At least this one I won’t be writing the screenplay for.’”

But when an audience member asked, tongue firmly in cheek, whether he’d had any interest from film-makers, McEwan replied, “Well I’m going to confound you when I say yes! I think in these days of CGI anything is now possible. Someone seems to think they can do something, so I’m going to meet them and ask them what’s on their mind.”

McEwan also spoke about two more upcoming film adaptations of his works: 2014’s The Children Act, about a judge who must decide whether to override a family’s religious beliefs to provide life-saving treatment to a teenager, and 2007’s On Chesil Beach, his novella about a young couple’s disastrous wedding night.

“We’re just about to start filming The Children Act, with Emma Thompson as a judge,” said McEwan, “and more or the less the same day we’re starting On Chesil Beach, with Saoirse Ronan.” Ronan, of course, starred in the film version of McEwan’s Atonement when she was just 13, earning an Oscar nomination for her role as Briony Tallis.


McEwan wrote the scripts for both The Children Act and On Chesil Beach – “I didn’t really want to write the screenplays for either, but even more strongly I felt I didn’t want anyone else doing it, so I’ve written them both” – but said he was unlikely to do the same for Nutshell. “Who knows, I might end up doing it, but I rather think I won’t.”