Olivia Colman pictured in BBC’s adaptation of John le Carre novel The Night Manager.
The drama, the first time the Le Carre novel has ever been adapted for the small screen, shows the story’s protangonist transformed from a male character to a leading lady.
It is the first television adaptation of a John le Carre novel for 20 years and in a treat for fans, the BBC production of The Night Manager even features a cameo appearance by the writer himself.
But the real surprise in store is that the character of the leading man has been transformed into a leading woman.
New pictures of the drama, the first time the Le Carre novel has ever been adapted for the small screen, were released today.
Olivia Colman has been cast in the role of the main role, Burr, in a bid to bring the story up to date and to add a new chemistry between Burr and Roper, played by Richard Onslow.
“Angela Burr was initially written as a man in the book, so not only did they have to rethink the gender of the character, but also incorporate the fact that she is pregnant,” said Colman, who filmed the role while expecting her third child, a daughter who was born in August.
Susanne Bier, the show’s director, said: “We had decided that Burr should be played by a woman, rather than a man as in the book, because we thought there was an exciting chemistry between a woman and a man engaging in the power struggle that Roper and Burr have.”
The switch of genders comes after Emma Rice, the new artistic director of the Globe theatre in London, announced that she will be renaming an upcoming production of Cymbeline to Imogen to highlight the role of Cymbeline’s daughter.
“Imogen speaks three times more lines than Cymbeline so it really is her story,” Rice said last week. “We are saying women have a strong narrative in these plays.”
Instead of being based in South and Central America, the new le Carre adaptation will be set in the Middle East in the age of the Arab Spring in Cairo, with Hugh Laurie taking the role of Richard Onslow Roper and Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine.
Not only has Le Carre offered his approval for the changes, he is so enthused he has appeared as an extra in the television drama.
Photographs from set show him dining with Roper and Pine in a Mallorcan restaurant, dressed in a smart suit.
The adaptation, due to be shown later this year, will tell the story of a former soldier-turned hotel night manager, who becomes embroiled in arms dealing, murder and the British intelligence service.
Hugh Laurie had vowed to make the book an adaptation for years, after reading the novel when it was first released. He said: “I fell in love with this book when I first read it back in 1993. I’d worshipped le Carré since I was a teenager, but this story, in particular, I found endlessly intriguing, powerful and romantic, mythic almost.”
It was filmed in locations including Mallorca, Morocco, London and Devon, with a newly-released group photograph showing a very modern cast.
Colman had already been signed up for the show before she announced she was pregnant. The scriptwriters adapted the storyline to fit in with her circumstances, with the actress clearly pregnant in publicity shots.
The original Burr is introduced in the novel as no-nonsense. Le Carre describes him as “an artist and a rebel … When he troubled to dress himself for an occasion, he only contrived to look more disreputable than when he wasn’t bothering.”