Neil Gaiman’s ‘Gormenghast’ Finds Its Scribe

When it was announced that Mervyn Peake’s darkly wicked series about the denizens of Castle Gormenghast was to be adapted by Neil Gaiman and Akiva Goldsman, I was disappointed to hear that Neil would not be writing the adaptation himself. However, it was announced today that Doctor Who alumnus Toby Whithouse will tackle the job of writing the adaptation.

Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast stories.
Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast stories.

According to Deadline

Whithouse, who created BBC Three fantasy thriller Being Human, is to work alongside Good Omens and American Gods’ Neil Gaiman and A Beautiful Mind’s Akiva Goldsman on the project. The latter pair will serve as non-writing exec producers alongside Barry Spikings (The Deer Hunter) and David A. Stern (Howards End), who was instrumental in bringing this deal together.

The series is being developed and produced out of Fremantle’s U.S. division, which also produces American Gods for Starz, with Director of Scripted Development Oliver Jones overseeing the project.

This comes after Deadline revealed in April that the RTL-owned producer and distributor won a hotly contested battle to option the five books in the series, written by British author Mervyn Peake from literary agent Jonathan Sissons at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop.

It marks the first television adaptation of the books since the BBC adapted the first two books – Titus Groan and Gormenghast – as a four-part series in 2000 with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Christopher Lee starring.

The books follow the inhabitants of Castle Gormenghast, a sprawling, decaying, gothic-like structure with a raft of characters including Titus, the heir to the throne of the House of Groan, scheming kitchen boy Steerpike and twin sisters Cora and Clarice.

It is one of many projects on Gaiman’s docket; he recently revealed that he had a five season plan for American Gods and he also debuted the first footage of his forthcoming Amazon Prime Video and BBC co-production Good Omens, which debuts in the new year. Meanwhile, Oscar-winning writer Goldsman has previously worked on Fox’s mystery drama Fringe, Star Trek: Discovery and Titans.

Whithouse, who has also recently worked on BBC One’s dystopian drama Noughts and Crosses, is represented by 42, WME and Independent Talent Group.

Gormenghast was last adapted for BBC in 2000, and while generally well received, it tried to encapsulate the first two books, Titus Groan and Gormenghast in under four hours, and is most especially remembered for its production design and costuming than the story itself. I have hopes that Toby Whithouse, with his experience writing for Being Human and Doctor Who, will bring all three books to life so that the story and not the setting is the focus.

Details on the production are sparse at the moment, but given the success of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods adaptation and the upcoming Good Omens adaptation, it could be a good indication that the Gormenghast series will be given enough time and a large enough budget to really do justice to the fascinating story. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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