Fresh from his behind-the-camera debut with a modern reimagining of William Shakespeare's "Coriolanus," Ralph Fiennes is reportedly already circling his next project, an adaptation of George Orwell's "Burmese Days." The actor, though, is presumably eyeing it as a starring vehicle rather than a directing gig as he is also looking to bring "Morning Glory" helmer Roger Michell on board the project, which is being produced by Avram Ludwig with a script by "Fair Game" scribe John Henry Butterworth.
No doubt inspired by Orwell's own years as a police officer in the Indian Imperial Police force in Burma, the political thriller follows the story of John Flory, a mid-thirties timber merchant (and presumably the role Fiennes is chasing) who befriends a local being targeted by the sub-divisional magistrate of their state. Adding to the intrigue is the introduction of Elizabeth Lackersteen, an unmarried English girl who offers Flory an escape from his solitary hell. A full synopsis, courtesy of its Amazon page, after the jump.
James Flory is a timber merchant, whose facial birthmark serves as an outward expression of the ironic and left-leaning habits of mind that make him inwardly different from his coevals. Flory appreciates the local culture, has native allegiances, and detests the racist machinations of his fellow Club members. Alas, he doesn't always possess the moral courage, or the energy, to stand against them. His almost embarrassingly Anglophile friend, Dr. Veraswami, the highest-ranking native official, seems a shoo-in for Club membership, until Machiavellian magistrate U Po Kyin launches a campaign to discredit him that results, ultimately, in the loss not just of reputations but of lives. Whether to endorse Veraswami or to betray him becomes a kind of litmus test of Flory's character.
Against this backdrop of politics and ethics, Orwell throws the shadow of romance. The arrival of the bobbed blonde, marriageable, and resolutely anti-intellectual Elizabeth Lackersteen not only casts Flory as hapless suitor but gives Orwell the chance to show that he's as astute a reporter of nuanced social interactions as he is of political intrigues. In fact, his combination of an astringently populist sensibility, dead-on observations of human behavior, formidable conjuring skills, and no-frills prose make for historical fiction that stands triumphantly outside of time.
It remains to be seen how far and/or fast this project can develop but, at this point in time, it's probably just early interest from Fiennes being piqued. The actor's upcoming scehdule is fairly light but he does have storyboard artist Temple Clark's directorial debut "Coronet" on the horizon. That project co-stars Olga Kurylenko and follows the story an English graphic designer (Fiennes) working in Prague who begins an affair with his cleaner (Kurylenko). Who would pass on that role? Shooting will take place this fall in London and Prague.