Unproduced screenplays by some of the greatest scripwriters in history are being brought to life for the first time for the radio with a host of star names.
The BBC’s Unmade Movies series will feature world premieres of Heart Of Darkness by Orson Welles, The Blind Man by Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman, as well as the previously announced broadcast of Arthur Miller’s The Hook. James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, David Suchet, Tim Pigott-Smith, Elliot Cowan and Rebecca Front are among the actors taking part in the series.
“To discover an unmade screenplay of the calibre of any of these is a find in itself, but to unearth three is little short of a miracle,” said Jeremy Howe, drama commissioner at BBC Radio 4. The episodes will be broadcast in Radio 4’s drama slot on Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm across three weekends in October.
Miller’s The Hook will see Adrian Noble direct his first radio drama, starring Suchet, Pigott-Smith and Cowan.
Written five years before A View From The Bridge, it tells the story of a 1950s Brooklyn longshoreman fighting back against a corrupt union boss. Miller developed the script with director Elia Kazan but it was shelved when the two fell out. Originally written by Welles in 1939, Heart Of Darkness was adapted from Joseph Conrad’s celebrated novel and he intended to play the roles of Marlow and Kurtz, but it was too audacious for his chosen film studio.
Telling the story of a skipper who is hired to take a steamship up the Congo River and encounters a terrifying evil, it became the basis for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in 1979. McAvoy stars and Jamie Lloyd directs the world premiere of the original screenplay.
The script for Hitchcock and Lehman’s The Blind Man, written shortly after the pair worked on North By Northwest, was discovered by Unmade Movies producer Laurence Bowen in a research institute in Texas – along with extensive notes and letters exchanged between the two on the ending.
Completed and directed by Mark Gatiss with approval from Hitchcock’s family and a specialist consultant, the play is set in 1961 and tells the story of a famous blind jazz pianist who agrees to an eye transplant. The operation is a success but the eyes are those of a murdered man and on them is transposed the image of his murderer.
The Blind Man stars Hugh Laurie, who said: “The first time I read Ernest Lehman’s script, it was like finding a pre-war Bugatti in a barn. We swept off some of the chicken droppings, cranked the handle, and it started first time. It was a thrill and a delight to be involved.”
Bowen, producer at Feelgood Fiction and creator of the series, added: “It’s taken several years to find and secure the rights for these but what a wonderful journey it’s been, bringing to life for the first time lost treasures from the greatest writers of the 20th century.
“There are many reasons why screenplays don’t happen – politics, funding, creative differences – and they disappear into cupboards, draws or computer files never seeing the light of day but these three are absolute gems and can now enter the official canons of their writers.”
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