I interviewed Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes this morning and asked him what was the latest with his adaptation of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an 800-page epic about two feuding magicians set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars which Neil Gaiman has called "unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years".
"It is at the moment a casualty of the collapse of New Line," Fellowes explained. "But I am quite optimistic that it’s about to be reborn. It’s a very good project. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book but it’s not one that you can make for thruppence on a housing estate in West Hartlepool, you need the whole thing behind it. But as a kind of fantasy story for all ages, for adults quite as much as anyone young, I think it’s very usual. Normally fantasy is incredibly boring for people over 30 and that isn’t. It’s got all sorts of interesting issues. I think it’s a kind of work of genius, actually, the novel."
Given the scale of the material, was it being planned as one movie or two?
"At the moment it’s one film. It’s a film, if it was made as written, which is a big if, of under two hours. But like every book of that scale there are many films you could make. it’s very visual. It would be a very beautiful film. Tremendously visual, in that society and Waterloo and Regency London, and all of that stuff, quite apart from the fantasy world. I have hopes that it will live and breathe again."