EXCLUSIVE: After dominating the Oscars in 2021, Nomadland writer-director Chloé Zhao looks to be building out her future slate. Sources tell Deadline that she is set to direct an adaptation of Hamnet for Amblin Partners, Hera Pictures, Neal Street Productions and Book of Shadows. The film is based on the novel by Maggie O’Farrell, who will adapt the script with Zhao.
The New York Times bestselling historical fiction novel imagines the story of Agnes – the wife of the world’s most famous writer, William Shakespeare – as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her only son, Hamnet. The novel charts the emotional, familial and artistic consequences of that loss, bringing to life a human and heart-stopping story as the backdrop to the creation of Shakespeare’s most famous play, Hamlet.
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Hamnet won the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Fiction Prize at the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards, and was also shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize and longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
Liza Marshall of Hera Pictures and Pippa Harris and Sam Mendes are producing the adaptation on behalf of Neal Street, who produced the Oscar-winning World War I pic 1917 along with Amblin. Nic Gonda is executive producing on behalf of Book of Shadows. Jeb Brody, Amblin’s president of production, and Mia Maniscalco, SVP Creative Affairs, will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.
It is still unknown whether this will be Zhao’s next project as she is developing a handful of films following the success of the Searchlight drama Nomadland. That film swept the Oscars in 2021 taking home Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director for Zhao, which at the time made her only the second woman to win that award.
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Zhao most recently directed Marvel’s Eternals; following directing Nomadland and that back-to-back, she decided to take a break as she looked for her next film.
O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling memoir I Am, I Am, I Am and nine novels: After You’d Gone, My Lover’s Lover, The Distance Between Us (which won a Somerset Maugham Award), The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand that First Held Mine (which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award), Instructions for a Heatwave (shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award), This Must be the Place (shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award) and Hamnet. Her latest novel, The Marriage Portrait, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023. She has also written two books for children: Where Snow Angels Go and The Boy Who Lost His Spark. She lives in Edinburgh.
Zhao is repped by CAA, co-managed by Pangea and Ilene Feldman Management, and lawyered by Linda Lichter of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler, Feldman & Clark.
O’Farrell is repped by Conrad Williams at Blake Friedmann Literary Agency (for film/TV rights) and Victoria Hobbs at AMHeath.