Production has started on the lavish ITV period adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel, The Scapegoat.

 

The Scapegoat has been adapted once for screen before. The 1958 version starred Alec Guinness and Bette Davis, and was written by Robert Hamer and Gore Vidal.

Set in 1952, as England prepares for the coronation, The Scapegoat tells the story of two very different men, John Standing and Johnny Spence, who have one thing in common – a face.  Almost exact replicas of each other  they meet by chance in a station bar,  each at a crossroads in their life,  one setting out on a walking tour after losing his job as a teacher; the other avoiding home after a disastrous business venture.

The charming and charismatic Johnny wines and dines his new acquaintance but when John wakes the next morning he is alone and a chauffeur is standing outside his room, waiting to take him ‘home’. Despite his protests he finds himself sucked irresistibly into another man’s life.

The Scapegoat has been commissioned for ITV by Drama commissioning team Laura Mackie and Sally Haynes, “We’re delighted to be bringing The Scapegoat to ITV1. It’s a terrific, suspenseful script featuring characters with sinister motivations and dark secrets. We’ve wanted to adapt a Daphne Du Maurier novel for some time and we’re thrilled we now have this opportunity with The Scapegoat,” said Laura.

Stepping literally into his double’s shoes, inexperienced schoolmaster is suddenly responsible for a crumbling stately home, a failing business and a dog who doesn’t recognise him.  Literally Lord of all he surveys, he is master of nothing and for the first time in his life, he has to deal with women, including a distraught wife, a drug taking mother,  a sister who despises him, an eccentric daughter – and two mistresses one of whom happens to be married to his younger brother.

Although he tries at first to escape John finds himself increasing attracted to this disparate and dysfunctional group of women and slowly his presence starts to alter the chemistry of the household.  Just as he seems to be making progress however two things happen: John finds himself falling in love and his nemesis Johnny returns with evil intent.  Filled with Du Maurier’s trademark elements of suspense, dark humor and unexpected twists the Scapegoat is a brilliant story in the tradition of the writer of Don’t Look Now, Rebecca and The Birds.

The Scapegoat will be released for cinema audiences following its screening on ITV. International theatrical distribution will be handled by Content Film. The film has started its prinicipal photography with further production on location in London this month.

Acclaimed star of hit US series Brothers and Sisters Matthew Rhys, will play the double roles of John Standing and Johnny Spence and award winning British actress and co-creator of Upstairs Downstairs Eileen Atkins will play his mother Lady Spence.

 

The 100 minute single film is written and directed by Charles Sturridge and will be produced by Sarah Beardsall and Dominic Minghella’s production company, Island Pictures.

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