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TV Adaptation Of Hanif Kureishi’s ‘The Body’ Takes Shape; Synchronicity Films Looks To Build Upon The Success Of ‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’

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EXCLUSIVE: Synchronicity Films is adapting Hanif Kureishi’s The Body as a series with the novelist and screenwriter on board as an exec producer and Emmy-nominated director Paul McGuigan attached. There are scripts from crime writer Robert Murphy and the producers will relocate the action from the UK to the U.S. for the series.

Scottish-based drama producer Synchronicity is working on the Kureishi project in the wake of making The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which has launched strongly in the UK, the U.S. and internationally

The book and series were inspired by the memories of Jewish Slovakian Holocaust survivor Lali Sokolov, and follow a love story between him and Gita. The couple met while they were prisoners in Auschwitz. The TV drama is based on Heather Morris’ novel, which has returned to the New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller lists since the launch of the series.

Claire Mundell-founded indie Synchronicity made the show in association with Sky Studios for Sky, Peacock and Stan, with All3Media and NBCUniversal selling it internationally. Israeli director Tali Shalom-Ezer directed all six episodes.

International Reception & Harvey Keitel

The first episode of the series won two million viewers on Sky after 28 days, making it the Sky Atlantic channel’s biggest launch since Gangs of London in 2020 and Sky’s biggest drama launch overall for two years.

It has fared well internationally. On Paramount and Comcast streaming platform SkyShowtime in Poland it has been the best-ever performing series premiere. On Stan in Australia, it was the most-watched drama through launch week.

It has also landed well in the U.S. where it is an international original for Peacock. Its other international originals include Matthew Fox and Joanne Froggatt-starrer Last Light, and cybersecurity drama The Undeclared War with Simon Pegg, but The Tattooist of Auschwitz has proved its biggest international original yet.

“It’s amazing to see the story being received in the way that it has been because I think there’s an assumption, often, that viewers can’t take tough material, that it might be too hard, too upsetting, but it’s the emotion that pulls audiences through to the end,” Mundell told Deadline.

The cast for the series includes Harvey Keitel, Emmy-winning Melanie Lynskey and breakout star Jonah Hauer-King. Speaking about Keitel’s performance as the older Lali Sokolov, Mundell said: “If you think about the career Harvey has had it may seem like an outlandish thing to say, but I feel his performance as Lali Sokolov in this piece is career defining.”

In terms of getting huge multi-million dollar drama up and running, the odds do not favor a small indie based in Glasgow, Scotland – especially one that is not part of one of the large European super groups.

“I am really motivated by things that seem impossible,” said Mundell, who founded her indie in 2006. “I have enjoyed being the underdog in the big landscape of international drama, because it’s like, that’s great, I have the element of surprise.”

Synchronicity landed the rights to The Tattooist of Auschwitz days before it was published in the U.S., before then attaching Keitel and getting an original song from Barbra Streisand.

‘The Body’ Parts Come Together

Another literary adaptation in the works is The Body and Synchronicity has got scripts and a director.

Scottish crime writer Robert Murphy has penned the scripts, which relocate the action from London in the book to Sacramento in the series. His TV credits include Vera, Shetland and DCI Banks. Paul McGuigan will direct. His credits include UK dramas Dracula and Sherlock and U.S. shows Scandal, Designated Survivor and Luke Cage.

Mundell will be lead exec producer alongside other EPs McGuigan, Murphy and The Body author Kureishi. His novella was originally published in 2003 as part of a collection of stories. It hinges upon tech that allows people to trade their bodies for younger, fitter, alternatives, although not always with the desired consequences. Synchronicity is pitching The Body as a returnable drama about what it means to be human.

Kureishi has been chronicling the impact of a 2022 accident that left him with life-changing injuries. He continues to work, however, most recently on a new stage adaptation of his novel The Buddha of Suburbia.

Speaking about the adaptation of his story, he said: “I’m thrilled with this bold and entertaining screen adaptation of The Body and impressed with how it breathes fresh life into the original story, whilst at the same time retaining the essence of the central, universal questions in my original novella.”

As Synchronicity takes the project to market, with Murphy’s scripts and McGuigan and Kureishi on board, and The Tattooist Of Auschwitz resonates with critics and viewers, Mundell is plotting the next stage for her indie: “From this point forward is the moment where I think it is time for us to grow to the next level, and I think we probably do need some level of partnership to do that.”

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