Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel, “Sanditon,” is being developed as a lavish period epic for ITV in Britain and PBS Masterpiece in the U.S. Veteran TV scribe Andrew Davies (“Pride and Prejudice”) is writing the eight-part series, with Tony Jordan’s “Hooten & The Lady” drama indie Red Planet Pictures on production duty.
Austen penned the first 11 chapters of Sanditon months before her death in 1817. It follows Charlotte Heywood, a spirited and impulsive woman who moves from her rural home to Sanditon, a sleepy fishing village attempting to reinvent itself as a seaside resort. Heywood’s spiky relationship with the humorous, charming Sidney Parker is a key part of the story, which has “a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing,” said Davies.
“It’s a rich, romantic, family saga built upon the foundations Jane Austen laid,” said Polly Hill, head of drama at ITV, which counts “Downton Abbey” and “Victoria” among its period drama hits. “There is no one better to adapt her unfinished novel than Andrew, who has an incredible track record for bold and original adaptations.”
Added executive producer Belinda Campbell of Red Planet Pictures: “Andrew Davies’ compelling scripts bear all the hallmarks of the biting social commentary and realism that makes Jane Austen one of the most widely read writers in English literature.”
Davies, whose other credits include “Mr. Selfridge” and “War and Peace,” will also exec produce. He paid tribute to the source material. “Jane Austen managed to write only a fragment of her last novel before she died – but what a fragment,” he said. “It’s been a privilege and a thrill for me to develop ‘Sanditon’ into a TV drama for a modern audience.”
“Sanditon” is a Red Planet Pictures production commissioned for ITV by Hill and for PBS Masterpiece by Rebecca Eaton. Filming gets underway next spring. BBC Studios will distribute the series internationally.