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Andrew Davies tackles unfinished Austen for ITV

Article by Jessica Goodfellow

Andrew Davies is to return to the world of Jane Austen with the first dramatization of the author’s final, unfinished novel.

ITV and PBS Masterpiece are co-producing Red Planet Pictures’ 8 x 60-minute series based on Sanditon, an 11-chapter manuscript written months before Austen’s death in 1817. Davies has previously adapted Austen novels Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Emma for TV.

In keeping with his reputation for ‘sexing up’ the classics with scenes such as Colin Firth’s pond dip in Pride and Prejudice, Davies promised the series would offer “a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing.”

Sanditon tells the story of the spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood, who goes on a journey of self-discovery when she visits the village of Sanditon, which enterprising and charming landowner Sidney Parker is determined to transform into a popular seaside resort.

The adaptation was commissioned by ITV head of drama Polly Hill and Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton. Davies is writing and executive producing the series with Eaton and Red Planet Pictures’ head of drama Belinda Campbell.

Casting will be announced in due course, with filming expected to commence in Spring 2019. BBC Studios is distributing the series internationally.

Hill called the series a “rich, romantic, family saga”, while Campbell said the script bears all the hallmarks of the biting social commentary and realism that characterises Jane Austen’s novels.

“Sanditon’s themes of class divide, ambition, power play and matters of the heart are as relevant today as they were in the early 19th century and we can’t wait to bring this incredible adaptation to life for ITV audiences to enjoy,” Campbell added.

Davies’ next project to air is BBC1’s Les Miserables, he is currently adapting John Updike’s Rabbit novels with Lookout Point.