Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant on board for Fremantle’s ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’

Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant. 

Snowtown and True History of the Kelly Gang collaborators, director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant, will bring to life the series adaptation of Richard Flanagan’s 2014 Man Booker prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North for Fremantle.

Published in 2013, the book opens in 1943 at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp on the Thai-Burma railway. It follows Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, who is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife Amy two years earlier. Evans struggles to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera and torture. After the war he is hailed as a hero but cannot overcome his sense of guilt and failings.

The novel examines the post-war lives of other Aussies and the Japanese and Korean prison guards while posing the question: What would you do if you saw the love of your life, whom you thought dead, walking towards you?

Fremantle first acquired the rights to Flanagan’s novel back in March last year. Fremantle director of scripted Jo Porter will lead the producing team of the limited series together with Chris Oliver-Taylor, Amy Noble and Nat Lindwall.

Porter tells IF: “It’s a book that doesn’t leave you. So much of it is relevant today. There is so much conflict and division in the world but also many things that unite us.”

Flanagan is a friend of Kurzel’s, and during a catch-up while the director was in post on True History of the Kelly Gang, Flanagan mentioned Fremantle had optioned his novel. Kurzel told him he’d love to direct it, and so Flanagan suggested Porter give him a ring.

Only after Grant then came on board did Porter learn his grandfather was a P.O.W. The writer has penned a treatment for a six hour series, with Fremantle commissioning a pilot script which he is due to deliver in early 2020. Fremantle will then shop the property to Australian and international broadcasters and platforms.

Kurzel said: “I feel extremely honoured to be trusted by Richard Flanagan to bring to life this complete masterpiece of a novel. I am so excited to be collaborating again with Shaun Grant and can’t wait to work with the Fremantle team in creating such an epic and incredibly powerful story.”

Grant said: “Having read Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North several years ago, and being moved beyond words, I am excited to adapt his sublime novel for the screen. My grandfather was a Prisoner of War, who worked the Thai-Burma railway, hence this project is very dear to my heart.”

Flanagan said: “I am genuinely delighted. Justin Kurzel is rightly considered to be one of the most exciting directors in world cinema today, and Shaun Grant is a marvellous writer of equivalent talent who brings to the project a deep personal connection.  It feels very right to me and I have a suspicion that the resulting series may just be astonishing.”

Kurzel and Grant’s feature True History of the Kelly Gang will launch in cinemas will open in Australian cinemas on January 9, before premiering on Australia Day on Stan as a Stan Original. Kurzel is currently in production on Shantaram for Apple, shooting in Melbourne.