A screen version of Philip Roth’s masterwork American Pastoral would be a major challenge for any director, let alone a first-timer. But apparently that does not deter Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, who plans to make his directorial debut with an adaptation of the novel.
The 43-year-old will also star in the film, which is scheduled to begin shooting in September. “I’ve wanted to direct for years and wanted to wait until I found a story that I ‘had’ to tell, and in this script I knew I had that story,” the Trainspotting star said in a statement.
Adapting Roth’s book for the screen would be “a great privilege,” he said, adding: “I’m looking forward to the challenge of being on both sides of the camera.”
McGregor will act alongside Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning in the film, which is being produced by Lakeshore Entertainment. “Ewan’s talent goes far beyond his on-screen work, and we’re excited to be working with a director who is as passionate as we are about telling the story of American Pastoral,” said Lakeshore’s chief executive, Tom Rosenberg.
McGregor might seem an odd fit for Roth’s protagonist, a blonde, Jewish-American businessman named Seymour “Swede” Levov, whose comfortable, middle-class New Jersey existence is blown apart when his daughter plants a bomb to protest the Vietnam War. Levov and his family thus become unexpectedly entangled in the political and social upheaval of the 1960s.
Best films to watch in 2015
Best films to watch in 2015
1/9 Suffragette - 11 September
Meryl Streep is bound to make a formidable Emmeline Pankhurst in Sarah Gavron's new film about the British women's suffragette movement of the early 20th century. Streep is again working from a screenplay by Abi Morgan who also wrote The Iron Lady.
2/9 Far From The Madding Crowd - 1 May
Thomas Vinterberg turns his hand to Thomas Hardy and British costume drama. Memories of the John Schlesinger version with Alan Bates and Julie Christie will be hard to exorcise. Carey Mulligan and the mercurial Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts star as Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak.
3/9 Jurassic World - 12 June
The third Jurassic Park sequel is finally here starring Chris Pratt. The storyline goes something like this - theme park gets dinosaur to attrack visitors and it all goes horribly wrong. Should prove a fun one among cinema-goers.
4/9 Terminator: Genisys - 3 July
Arnold Schwarzenegger kept his promise - he's back and he's trying to stop Judgement Day.
5/9 Spectre - 6 November
Bond is back for the 24th time. So is arch-villain Blofeld. Director Sam Mendes did a sterling job with Skyfall but the last movie ended on a very downbeat note with poor old Judi Dench signing out of the series. The challenge now is to reinvigorate a franchise that is already well into its 50s.
6/9 Cake - 20 February
It's Rachel from Friends as you've never seen her before as Jennifer Aniston plays Claire Bennett - a woman who initiates a relationship with a widower while battling hallucinations of his dead wife.
7/9 Suite Francaise - 13 March
It will be intriguing to see how Saul Dibb’s long-awaited adaptation of Irène Némirovsky’s novel deals with a problem that has often confounded British film-makers: how to portray French characters played by English-speaking actors in Nazi-occupied, wartime Paris without slipping into ’Allo ’Allo!-style caricature. Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas lead Dibb’s promising cast.
8/9 In The Heart Of The Sea - 13 March
Chris Hemsworth plays tough seafarer Owen Chase in this dramatic Moby Dick movie.
9/9 Cinderella - 27 March
Kenneth Branagh's live action remake of Disney's classic tale stars Downton Abbey's Lily James. Helena Bonham-Carter and Cate Blanchett also star as the Fairy Godmother and evil stepmother.
Widely considered the first of Roth’s great, late novels, American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 and was included in Time magazine’s 2005 list of the 100 greatest novels written in English since 1923. The novel was also the opening book in what the author described as his post-war “American trilogy”, followed by I Married a Communist (1998) and The Human Stain (2000).
Should McGregor’s film meet with wide acclaim, it would be the first of several Roth adaptations to do so. The first adaptation is also thought by many to be the finest: the 1969 film Goodbye, Columbus, starring Ali MacGraw, was based on one of the author’s short stories and nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Lakeshore has produced two previous Roth adaptations: The Human Stain (2003), starring Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins; and Elegy (2008), starring Penelope Cruz and Ben Kingsley. Neither was ecstatically received by critics. The Humbling, starring Al Pacino as an ageing and unhappy actor, is based on Roth’s penultimate novel; it was released in the UK in December 2014, to distinctly lukewarm reviews. Now 81, the author recently announced his retirement from fiction writing.
McGregor, who took the helm of the project following the departure of the original director, Philip Noyce, only adds to an already heavy workload with his directorial duties. After appearing in the recent turkey Mortdecai with Johnny Depp, he is due to star in an adaptation of John Le Carré’s spy novel Our Kind of Traitor, and in a biopic of jazz musician Miles Davis with Don Cheadle.Reuse content