FremantleMedia North America, which brought American Gods to television, has acquired the rights to another adaptation project with Neil Gaiman: Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake’s eccentric, darkly humorous series about the inhabitants of Castle Gormenghast. Gaiman (who signed a multi-year, first-look agreement with FMNA in 2017) and Akiva Goldsman will serve as non-writing executive producers, helming the adaptation of the five books in Peake’s series.
A contemporary to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peake’s series follows Titus Groan, 77th Earl and reluctant heir to Gormenghast Castle. Though he stands to inherit miles of rambling stone and mortar that make up the castle and its kingdom, it is only when charismatic kitchen boy Steerpike begins to climb the ranks of the castle that Titus desires to protect his birthright. “What follows,” the press release promises, “is an extended fight to the death for Gormenghast itself.”
“There is nothing in literature like Mervyn Peake’s remarkable Gormenghast novels,” said Neil Gaiman in the official announcement from FMNA. “They were crafted by a master, who was also an artist, and they take us to an ancient castle as big as a city, with heroes and villains and people larger than life that are impossible to forget. There is a reason why there were two trilogies that lovers of the fantasy genre embraced in the Sixties: Lord of the Rings, and the Gormenghast books. It’s an honor to have been given the opportunity to help shepherd Peake’s brilliant and singular vision to the screen.”
Other EPs include Barry Spikings, whose career as a producer includes The Man Who Fell to Earth and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, among other films; and David A. Stern, the current EP on Howards End, the adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel. Per Deadline’s article, it sounds as if FMNA’s next move is to meet with potential showrunners.
“Luminaries like Mervyn Peake and my old friend Neil Gaiman are more than good company to keep,” Goldsman said. “I am grateful to Barry Spikings for the will, and FremantleMedia for the capacity, to help us bring the sprawling glory of Gormenghast to a modern audience.”
The last time Gormenghast was on television was a 2000 miniseries adaptation from the BBC, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Steerpike. It covered the plot of only the first two novels, Titus Groan and Gormenghast.
“We are tremendously excited by the prospect of seeing the Gormenghast books realized for television,” Fabian Peake, son of Mervyn and executor of the Peake estate, said. “This venture presents a unique opportunity to explore the imagination of a multi-faceted artist.”
In addition to his EP duties on American Gods, Gaiman is also the showrunner for the forthcoming miniseries adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, premiering on the BBC and Amazon Video in 2019.