BBC Two announces brand new six-part drama adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries

Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument: the melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different. Eleanor Catton, Writer
Date: 26.08.2016     Last updated: 26.08.2016 at 09.30
BBC Two has commissioned Working Title Television to produce The Luminaries, a six-part drama series, which will be written by its award-winning novelist Eleanor Catton.

A 19th century tale of adventure and mystery set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush, The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes.

On publishing, The Luminaries was met with worldwide critical acclaim. Most notably it won the 2013 Man Booker Prize, with Eleanor Catton being its youngest ever recipient. Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, The Luminaries is her second title following debut novel The Rehearsal (2008), which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and long-listed for the Orange Prize.

On her first television drama, writer Eleanor Catton says: “I feel absurdly lucky to be working with both the BBC and Working Title, whose work I have loved and learned from all my life. Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument: the melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different. I'm having enormous fun, learning every day, and just so excited to see the world of the novel created in the flesh.”

The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?

The story begins in 1865 in a wild landscape, where fortunes are made, lives easily lost, and justice is rough and ready. Luminous Anna must survive this dangerous world, where shipwreck and murder, blackmail and betrayal, greed, gold and false imprisonment all conspire to keep her apart from Emery.

Andrew Woodhead, Managing Director of Working Title Television, says: “I was spellbound when I first read Ellie’s novel, so it’s a privilege to be making the television adaption with her for the BBC. The Luminaries is an incredible story, which will translate beautifully on screen; all of human life is here, in all its darkness and its light, set against this stunning New Zealand backdrop.”

Patrick Holland, BBC Two Channel Editor, says: “The Luminaries is one of the finest novels of recent years and Eleanor Catton's own adaptation of her work is just as scintillating. It's a work of startling originality told by an brilliant talent. I am very excited for our audience that this major new drama is coming to BBC Two.”

Lucy Richer, BBC Acting Controller of Drama and Executive Producer, says: "Eleanor Catton's is a major new voice for screen and we are proud to be making her first ever work for TV - an enthralling drama with a revelatory historical setting, in a landscape as unique and dazzling as her characters."

The Luminaries’ six hour-long episodes will be produced by Working Title Television (an NBCUniversal International Studios company) for BBC Two. The series will be executive produced by Eleanor Catton, Andrew Woodhead, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner for Working Title Television, and Lucy Richer for the BBC. Filming will begin in 2017 and taking place in and around New Zealand. Eleanor Catton is represented by United Agents.