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James Marsh Working On An Adaptation Of 'The Silent Land' For Focus Features & Talks About Projects 'Valiero' & 'El Aura'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 30, 2012 at 9:21AM

James Marsh might have missed out on another Oscar nomination for his excellent film "Project Nim" last week, but he's not too upset.
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James Marsh The Silent Land
James Marsh might have missed out on another Oscar nomination for his excellent film "Project Nim" last week, but he's not too upset. For one, the DGA gave him their documentary directing award over the weekend for his work on the film. For another, his latest feature, the IRA thriller "Shadow Dancer," was the toast of Sundance last weekend, picking up excellent reviews, including our own. And finally, he's got more than enough on his slate coming up to keep him occupied.

We sat down with Marsh in Park City last week (go here for the rest of the fascinating interview), and he spilled the beans on what he's got on his dance card in the near-future, including the first word on a very promising-looking supernatural thriller that he's attached to. 

Something that Marsh has been linked to for a few years now is "Valerio," a Brit Listed script from Kelly Marcel (the British co-creator of Fox's "Terra Nova"). Marsh told us that, " 'Valerio is...written by a great writer named Kelly Marcel, it's a very different film from this one, a comedy-heist movie based on a true story. Valiero was a notorious Italian-bank robber who ended up in London and undertook the biggest ever heist in British history. He's an Italian playboy-bank robber, a preposterous character, vain, shagging everything that moves. The script is brilliantly funny and it's a nice change of tone for me. We've got one or two thoughts [on the lead] but we can't talk about. Obviously the whole film has to be carried by that actor, that's something I'm interested in doing because it's based on a true story. You're dealing with the power of reality."

The title character is Valerio Viccel, who after the £60 million Knightsbridge Security Deposits heist in 1987, fled to Latin America, only to be caught, but not before forging a friendship with his arresting officer. He died in 2000, after becoming embroiled in a gunfight on the day of his release from prison in Italy. The project is set up at 4DH Films, who were behind anothter true crime figure tale, "Bronson" (on which Marcel worked as a script editor), so we'll be eager to see how this project takes shape.

Also in development is a remake of "El Aura," which, as Marsh told us, is "an Argentinian thriller made six or seven years ago , a great film, but no one saw it." The original was the second and final film by "Nine Queens" director Fabián Bielinsky, who passed away shortly after completion, and starred Ricardo Darin ("The Secret In Their Eyes"), who played a taxidermist obsessed with committing the perfect crime. The project is set up at Film4, with Zack Winfield (the upcoming "Last Passenger") and Michiyo Yoshisaka ("Titus") producing.

But there's one more in the works as well, one that we weren't aware of before we spoke to Marsh. The writer-director told us that "I'm working with Focus on 'The Silent Land,' which is a novel by a British writer named Graham Joyce. It's a very interesting, unusual supernatural story. It's remarkable and an emotional story, I just wrote the first draft with a British writer named Nick Drake."

Joyce's novel, which was published in 2010, involves Zoe and Jake, a British couple caught in an avalanche in the Alps, who return to their resort to discover it deserted, but that they're unable to leave. You might be able to guess where the plot is headed, and you'd only be partially correct; the book, which The Independent called "near-perfect," has plenty more surprises in store. Marsh's co-writer, Drake, is best known for penning Richard Roxburgh's Eric Bana-starring directorial debut "Romulus My Father," and also worked on the Brit listed script "Baghdad Wedding" last year.

The perceptive might have noticed that all three are, like "Red Riding" and "Shadow Dancer," adaptations from novels, and Marsh told us that that's how he likes it saying, "I like raw materials. I wrote an original screenplay called 'The King,' it was the hardest thing I ever did, which I wrote with Milo Addica. It was based on our own personal experiences sublimated into a movie script. I like raw material because 'Man on Wire' started with Phillipe [Petit]'s memoir, that was a great starting point; 'Nim' started as a book. I like things that I can explore that are already on the way."

There's no word which of the three might be next, but all sound promising, and we're sure the reception of "Shadow Dancer," which sold to ATO Pictures over the weekend, will make it easier for Marsh to get any of them made.

Interview by John Lichman

This article is related to: James Marsh, Shadow Dancer, Sundance 2012 Interviews, The Silent Land, Valerio, El Aura, Kelly Marcel


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