As the creator of a silent film picturing nothing but David Beckham sleeping and another work consisting of a musician playing an invisible cello, the Turner Prize-nominated artist Sam Taylor-Wood may not be an obvious choice as director of a full-length movie based on a novel heavy on dialogue and gut-wrenching tragedy.
But a lack of experience in churning out blockbusters has proved no impediment to Taylor-Wood's career as a fully-fledged film maker after it was confirmed yesterday that she is to convert to celluloid The Story of You, a critically-acclaimed novel about grief and desire by the British author Julie Myerson.
The artist has long been feted for her mastery of visual media from photography to video with a succession of projects, including a promotional film commissioned by Sir Elton John and starring former Hollywood enfant terrible Robert Downey Jnr, and a celebrated study of the speeded-up acceleration of the decomposition of a bowl of fruit. But this will be the first time she has directed a feature-length film.
The transition from conceptual art to arthouse cinema will be made with the help of the steady hand of Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of The English Patient.
Minghella and the production company Film4 bought the film rights to The Story of You, which tells the tale of a mother recovering from the sudden death of a child who finds herself pursuing a love affair from her youth. But the director decided to take the producer's chair rather than direct because of the novel's similarities with Truly, Madly, Deeply, the 1990 film about bereavement starring Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson which first brought him to prominence.
The choice of Taylor-Wood, who is married to the contemporary art impresario and White Cube gallery owner Jay Jopling, to direct the film was welcomed by Myerson, whose work has often dwelt on the darker elements of existence from suicide to fundamentalism. The novelist, who makes regular appearances on BBC2's Newsnight Review, said she "couldn't think of a more exciting person" for the film.
The 2006 book is being adapted by Abi Morgan, who wrote the script for the Monica Ali novel Brick Lane and is currently working on the film version of Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks's best-selling book about love and carnage in the First World War.
Anyone expecting a romantic comedy from Taylor-Wood's debut is therefore going to be disappointed. The Story of You dwells on Rosy, a married middle-aged woman whose daughter has just died.
Written entirely in dialogue between Rosy and the other characters as well as her own internal musings, the book centres around her recollections of a single night of passion with her housemate 20 years earlier. One reviewer described it as "a haunting tale of memory, grief and obsession". The project comes after the completion of a new short film by Taylor-Wood, who has also worked with the Pet Shop Boys by producing videos of their concerts and singing two songs on a recent album.
The film, inspired by a song by the 1970s punk band Buzzcocks, is about the sexual awakening of two teenagers and has been made with Seamus McGarvey, the cinematographer who worked on the Oscar-nominated Atonement.
Taylor-Wood apparently intends to enter the finished film in the Venice and Cannes festivals.Reuse content