Variety

Italian TV Adapts to Global Tastes

by Nick Vivarelli

My Brilliant Friend
Rai and HBO have teamed up on this eight-episode adaptation of the first of Elena Ferrante’s four bestselling “Neapolitan Novels” about the deep friendship and rivalry between two inextricably bound women starting in 1950s Naples. Director Saverio Costanzo directs; series is co-produced by Fandango and FremantleMedia, which is also handling international distribution.

Rai Raises the Drama Series Bar

by Nick Vivarelli

After churning out pedestrian shows for decades, Italian state broadcaster Rai is making a major push into the global TV arena thanks to a more ambitious mindset that has spawned high-end hit “Medici: Masters of Florence,” and will soon see series “My Brilliant Friend” and “The Name of the Rose” compete for audiences around the world.

As Italian high-end content becomes a hot international commodity thanks to groundbreaking shows such as Sky’s “Gomorrah” and “The Young Pope,” the pubcaster that produces roughly 70% of Italian TV fiction is ready to seize the moment. Rai is putting its own creative stamp on the country’s high-end TV output and fueling a burst of vibrancy in Italy’s TV community.

In a related break with the past, Rai is also venturing into bold business models by teaming up with Netflix on the streaming giant’s first Italian original, “Suburra,” and with HBO on “My Brilliant Friend,” which is based on the first of the four “Neapolitan Novels” by Elena Ferrante. “Friend” will mark HBO’s first completely subtitled project.

“Rai, like all other European public service broadcasters, has had to rethink its role, faced with a changing market which is increasingly global,” says Eleonora Andreatta, who heads its Rai Fiction unit. “It had to think about its identity as a great content producer. And that identity is to focus on Italian creativity, Italian culture, history and tradition.”

The first project of this new Rai era is the English-language “Medici,” which sold widely, including to Netflix for the U.S., after scoring stellar ratings locally on its Rai 1 flagship channel. Framed as a thriller, the first season, toplining Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) as well as Dustin Hoffman, played well domestically with younger viewers who are not typically Rai 1’s core demographic and became the most tweeted series of 2016 in Italy.

When “Medici” debuted, Andrea Scrosati, who is in charge of content for Sky in Italy — a Rai rival — tweeted that this was a success for the entire TV industry.

“It was a fresh approach to a story that I think a lot of Italians think they know, but probably don’t know as well as they imagine,” showrunner Frank Spotnitz says.

The second season of “Medici,” toplining Sean Bean, started shooting in September in Tuscany with Jon Cassar (“24”) and Itay’s Jan Michelini sharing directorial duties. It will “mix historical drama with a coming-of-age tale,” says Andreatta.

Cameras start rolling in October on “Brilliant Friend,” being shot by Italian auteur Saverio Costanzo on the outskirts of Naples. The entire neighborhood of Gianturco, where Ferrante’s novel is set, has been meticulously rebuilt for the series. The show will be in the Neapolitan dialect.

It was easy to get Rai and HBO to agree to board this project “because they both understood that there were enough elements within these novels to make them a big success both on Rai1 and HBO,” says Lorenzo Mieli, head of Fremantle Italy, which is producing in tandem with Domenico Procacci’s Fandango.

Andreatta, who calls Ferrante’s work “one of the most powerful and universal stories of female friendship,” says Rai “felt very strongly” that it “belongs to the realm of what European public service television does.” She admits that airing it in primetime on Rai 1, in a drastic departure from the more mainstream local dramas that have been Rai’s staples for ages, will be a gamble, but believes that the Italian TV audience “is a lot more willing to be challenged and stimulated than what we used to think.”

“The Name of the Rose,” which will start shooting at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios in January, co-produced with Wild Bunch TV, is a further indication of Rai’s new international course — “Stories that don’t just belong to Italy, but to the world,” as Andreatta puts it. Italy’s Giacomo Battiato will direct the eight-episode English-language TV adaptation of Umberto Eco’s bestseller.

“There is lots of curiosity and attention toward Italian TV,” says one of the “Rose” producers, Carlo Degli Esposti. “For the first time we are finding that Rai is receptive and becoming a very important driver to provide the oxygen to develop the Italian market’s firepower.”

Variety

French, Italian State Broadcasters Join Forces to Counter U.S. Streaming Giants

International Correspondent@NickVivarelli

ROME – France Televisions and Italy’s RAI have joined forces to co-produce a wide range of high-end English-language content for global distribution – including TV dramas, documentaries, animation series and entertainment formats – in a strategic pact meant to counter the growing force of U.S. streaming services in Europe.

Top executives from the two state broadcasters said at a Rome press conference Wednesday that the growth of Netflix and Amazon brought them together in this wide-ranging co-production partnership. France Televisions managing director Xavier Couture even suggested that the pact could be a possible first step of a broader alliance of European pubcasters to counter SVOD juggernauts from the U.S. and elsewhere.

“These players from the U.S., such as Netflix and Amazon, are very powerful, and they all have stories to tell that are not our own,” Couture said in his prepared remarks.

“But Europe is the most powerful cultural region in the world. We can counter them together,” he added.

The France Televisions exec went on to note that “we are the first [members] of a big family that must be the European family of cultural television,” which could include other pubcasters as partners in the future.

In a similar vein, RAI managing director Mario Orfeo noted that “the world of media and television is coming under very strong competition, especially by global players that have more resources.”

“It’s therefore important that RAI, after its agreements with [Franco-German publicly funded network] Arte and [Swiss pubcaster] RSI, forges this alliance,” he said.

Projects in the pipeline are being rigorously kept under wraps, but Variety understands that they include a drama on the origins and expansion of the Mafia, a high-profile documentary on Pompeii, and an animation series set in France.

The agreement between France Televisions and RAI is unusual if not unprecedented because the two prominent pubcasters will develop content together through an ongoing active collaboration between their respective production departments and also single networks. Details about how much each broadcaster will be investing were not disclosed.

Rai accounts for around 70% of Italian TV drama funding. France Televisions also spends hundreds of millions of euros a year on original drama. But both need to make more high-end product as local audiences become more sophisticated thanks to pay-TV and streaming offerings and international sales become crucial to recoup costs.

Couture said that the high-end content that France and Italy would be producing would be English-language “in order to be able to compete on the global market.”

RAI recently made a foray in the international TV arena as a major co-financer of “Medici” and also has crime show “Suburra” in the works, in an unusual partnership with Netflix, as well as a series based on Elena Ferrante’s bestselling novel “My Brilliant Friend” co-financed with HBO. France Televisions is especially strong in documentaries and animation for the international market.

Entertainment Weekly

12 Novels to Read Before They Head to TV

Harper’s Bazaar

ELENA FERRANTE OPENS UP ABOUT THE ‘MY BRILLIANT FRIEND’ HBO SERIES

By , 1 June 2017

Until now, author Elena Ferrante has remained quiet about her hugely popular Neapolitan series moving to television screens via HBO. However, as casting begins in Naples for the adaptation of My Brilliant Friend, the famously private author – who works under a pseudonym – has opened up about her involvement in the project.

“For now, my contribution to the set design is limited to a few notes on whether they look right,” she told The New York Times in a rare interview. “As far as the collaboration on the script, I don’t write, I don’t have the technical skills to do it, but I am reading the texts and send detailed notes. I still don’t know if they will take them into account. It is very likely that my notes will be used later on, in the writing of the final draft.”

However, she does want the young characters – including leads Lila and Elena – to be played by newcomers rather than established child actors or actresses. All four books show an unparalleled, compelling look at the complicated friendship of two women who were both born in poverty-stricken 1950s Naples.

“Child actors portray children as adults imagine children to be,” she explained. “Children who are not actors have some chance to break free of the stereotype, especially if the director is able to find the right balance between truth and fiction.”

That said, she appreciates that ultimately casting is not her decision.

“I don’t have this skill set. Sure, I’d very much like to weigh in, but I would do it cautiously and knowing that it is useless to say, ‘Lila has little or nothing to do with that body, that face, that gaze, that way of moving,’ etc,” she said. “No real person will ever match the image that I or a reader have in our minds. This is because the written word, of course, defines but by nature leaves much to reader’s imagination. The visual image instead shrinks those margins.”

Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels have sold two million copies in 39 countries worldwide. Her final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. HBO announced news of the show – which will comprise eight episodes – in March this year, although a release date is not yet known. The series will be filmed in Italian with English subtitles.

The New York Times

Elena Ferrante on ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Moving to the Screen

I contacted the author Elena Ferrante, who chooses to remain anonymous and publish under a pseudonym, for a story I wrote for The Times about a citywide casting call for children in Naples to fill the starring roles in a mini-series based on her hit novel “My Brilliant Friend.”

Ms. Ferrante missed deadline by a good few days, but nevertheless the author had worthwhile thoughts. Below are her answers about what it’s like for a writer to have their major work adapted to the screen, to have regular kids incarnating her characters, how much she contributes to the production and whether she thinks the show will take off like “Game of Thrones.”

The first thing I’d like to know is what it feels like to have all these young kids in Naples, many from really disadvantaged sections of the city, lining up in the hopes of being Lila and Lenù? Obviously the books have had great acclaim, but I wonder what thoughts and feelings it evokes in you to actually have the works entering the lives of kids not so dissimilar to the ones you described.

For me it was a radical change. The characters, the neighborhood are all created from words, and yet they move from literature to the screen. They leave the world of readers and enter into the much more vast world of spectators, they meet people who have never read about them and people who, for social circumstances or by choice, would never read about them. It’s a process that intrigues me. The substance of the books is reworked according to other rules and other priorities, and it changes nature. The kids themselves who show up at the auditions are the first sign of this. They know little or nothing about books. They are spectators who hope to become actors, either for play or a shot at deliverance.

You’ve clearly described the characters, and the casting director, director and producers all have a clear idea of what they are looking for based on your descriptions. And they think that kids who have grown up in tough environments are best to convey the spirit of those kids. What do you think? Would you also rather have non-actors playing the roles (there is some risk there!) or would you prefer more practiced child actors?

Child actors portray children as adults imagine children to be. Children who are not actors have some chance to break free of the stereotype, especially if the director is able to find the right balance between truth and fiction.

A lot of these kids, frankly, have never heard of Elena Ferrante or the Neapolitan novels. Most of them have visions of TV stardom dancing in their heads. Are you, someone who has studiously avoided the stardom track, worried that the hysteria around the auditions could fuel the celebrity obsession so many young people now have?

They are children who take their lead from the myths of cinema, of television, definitely not those of the written word. They want to be on screen, to be center stage, to become stars, and this is not their fault — it’s the air breathed in the adult world and, as a result, in theirs. To be part of television today is one of the most powerful aspirations of the masses, and anyone, poor or well off, considers it an extraordinary opportunity. Across all the social classes, poor and rich, cultured and uncultured.

On the flip side, do you feel like this is an opportunity to introduce kids, many of them disadvantaged, to the joys of reading? I don’t mean just reading your books, but getting them interested in books in general.

Naturally, I hope that happens. But the opportunity we are talking about has little, if anything, to do with reading. Children are there to be part of show business, and that’s it. That doesn’t mean that some of them won’t discover that this all started with a book; that behind the world of show business, with its many moving parts and conspicuous cash flow, there always is, albeit in a subservient position, the evocative power of writing and reading.

What is your hope for this production as far as its impact on Naples and its image in the world, especially after the unflattering depictions in the movie and popular television show “Gomorrah”?

Cities don’t have their own energy. It derives from the density of their history, from the power of their literature and arts, of the emotional richness of human events that take place against that background. I hope that the visual storytelling will stir authentic emotions — complex and even contradictory sentiments. This is what makes us fall in love with cities.

Do you want to sign off on the children before they are officially cast? Do you want to make sure that they are true to your vision?

I don’t have this skill set. Sure, I’d very much like to weigh in, but I would do it cautiously and knowing that it is useless to say, “Lila has little or nothing to do with that body, that face, that gaze, that way of moving,” etc. No real person will ever match the image that I or a reader have in our minds. This is because the written word, of course, defines but by nature leaves much to reader’s imagination. The visual image instead shrinks those margins. It is destined to always leave out something that the words inspire — something that always matters.

What has your involvement been with the production? The director and producers told me you send notes on the script, and have helped them design the set out near Caserta. What do you want the set to look like?

The neighborhood is a composite of different places in Naples that I know well. That’s always the case when I write, both with people or things. I don’t know what will happen on the screen. For now, my contribution to the set design is limited to a few notes on whether they look right. As far as the collaboration on the script, I don’t write, I don’t have the technical skills to do it, but I am reading the texts and send detailed notes. I still don’t know if they will take them into account. It is very likely that my notes will be used later on, in the writing of the final draft.

They have also told me that you imagine the show visually as a fairy tale, that they shouldn’t be scared to go beyond the book and depict villains as monsters, etc. How faithful do you want them to be to the novels?

No, no, it is a realistic tale. It is childhood that is colored by elements of the fantastic, and surely Lila is too. As far as faithfulness to the book, I expect a faithfulness compatible with the needs of visual storytelling, which uses different means than writing to obtain the same effects.

And lastly, HBO is involved in the production. Do you hope, or maybe fear, that this becomes the next global phenomenon, Italy’s “Game of Thrones”?

Unfortunately, “My Brilliant Friend” doesn’t provide the same kind of plot points.

The New York Times

Saudi Arabia, Theresa May, Elena Ferrante: Your Friday Briefing 

Ferrante Fever has flared up in Naples, where nearly 5,000 children are vying to audition for HBO’s adaptation of “My Brilliant Friend,” the first of the four smash-hit novels by Elena Ferrante.

The open casting call has injected hysteria and hope in parts of the southern Italian city that is poor in resources but rich in characters.

Separately, our correspondent visited the nearby Villaggio Coppola, built in the 1960s with utopian ambitions. It’s now, in her words, “a sad illustration of Southern Italy’s violated beauty and neglect.”

The New York Times

A Casting Call in Naples Lets Children Dream, if for a Day

By JASON HOROWITZ
MAY 18, 2017

NAPLES, Italy — A legion of children raced up a dead-end street in Sanità, a tough Naples neighborhood dripping with laundry and suddenly brimming with the promise of stardom.

Marta Reale, 10, her smile broad, her bangs blanched, made her way to a recreation center’s doorway through the dense crowd of other children, sunlit cigarette smoke and mothers fanning themselves on the seats of scooters. Above her, more children were hanging out the window, and above them, more were crammed onto a balcony.

Then she approached the desk where she gave her name and age and got a numbered slip of paper and a parental release form. The sign above her head read, “Dream.”

This was not just any casting call, but one for “My Brilliant Friend,” an adaptation of the first of the four smash-hit Neapolitan Novels written by Elena Ferrante, whose hidden identity enthralled the literary world and whose books have sold more than a million copies.

HBO and the Italian state broadcaster RAI caught the Ferrante Fever and are producing an eight-episode mini-series inspired by that first book, introducing international viewers to the complicated relationship of two remarkably gifted girls, Lila (“that terrible, dazzling girl”) and Lenú (“I liked pleasing everyone”), as they grow up and apart in a violent, vivid Naples neighborhood in the lean postwar years.

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The New York Times

Elena Ferrante Series Coming to HBO

Variety

HBO, Rai to Adapt Elena Ferrante’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’ as Drama Series

Nick Vivarelli

ROME – HBO and Italian state broadcaster Rai have teamed up on “My Brilliant Friend,” the hotly anticipated drama series based on the first of four “Neapolitan Novels” written by Italian author Elena Ferrante, whose books have legions of fervent fans around the world.

FremantleMedia-owned Wildside and Domenico Procacci’s Fandango are producing the Italian-language series. The plan is to start shooting this summer in Naples for a premiere targeted in 2018.

Italian director Saverio Costanzo (“Private,” “Hungry Hearts”) will direct. Jennifer Schuur (“Big Love,” “Hannibal”) will serve as executive producer on “My Brilliant Friend” for Wildside and Fandango. The international distributor is FremantleMedia Intl.

Costanzo told Variety that Ferrante’s sweeping saga is “very literary but also very cinematographic” and said he planned to stick as closely as possible to the storyline of the book. “The characters really leap out of the book and come alive,” he said. “That makes it easier for us to transpose this cinematographically.”

Wildside and Fandango envision the series as 32 episodes covering all four books. HBO is on board for the first eight episodes.

Though casting is still being decided, the production is expected to draw widely from the large Neapolitan talent pool.

“My Brilliant Friend” tells the story of elderly woman Elena Greco who, after her best friend Lila disappears without a trace, starts writing the story of their 60-year friendship. It begins in the 1950s in the tough streets of Naples, which undergoes transformations along with the rest of Italy as the two women’s symbiotic, though often conflicted, relationship evolves.

“Through her characters, Elena and Lila, we will witness a lifelong friendship set against the seductive social web of Naples, Italy,” said HBO Programming president Casey Bloys. “An exploration of the complicated intensity of female friendship, these ambitious stories will no doubt resonate with the HBO audience.”

The Ferrante skein marks HBO’s second high-end Italian TV series, following “The Young Pope,” directed by Paolo Sorrentino, which was also co-produced by HBO with Wildside. “Pope” aired in Italy on Sky Italia.

This time, the Italian broadcaster on “My Brilliant Friend” will be Rai. Its  hefty investment in the Ferrante adaptation marks a drastic departure from the more mainstream and largely local TV dramas that have been staples for ages on its general entertainment channels.

“This is an ambitious project that satisfies many of our public service goals,” said Rai Managing Director Antonio Campo Dall’Orto. Striving for quality and cultural value at the mammoth pubcaster represents a novelty.

Costanzo said the vivid characters that Ferrante has crafted will be compelling to a wide range of viewers.

“They are characters that each one of us can inhabit no matter what country you are from,” Costanzo said. “They are so well told, in such detail, that we can all identify with them and their desire to emancipate themselves….Elena Ferrante has managed to tell in the first person things that are very intimate, risky, that we all feel but that you need plenty of courage to admit.”

The 41-year-old director broke out internationally in 2004 with “Private,” which was set in a Palestinian home in an occupied zone. More recently he lensed the New York-set “Hungry Hearts,” co-starring Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher, an offbeat drama based on a novel about New Age diet obsessions.

Costanzo said he was approaching the Ferrante series “as if I were making a big movie. For me the difference between TV and cinema is very subtle; today’s great TV series are cinematographic.”

He added: “From our conversations, I have a sense that HBO are the right people to help us make a great show because they have great faith in the audience.”

Costanzo is currently working on the screenplays for the eight hourlong episodes with top Italian scribes Francesco Piccolo (“Human Capital”), Laura Paolucci (“Gomorrah” the TV series) and with Ferrante herself, although “Elena Ferrante” is a pseudonym. He said he’s been communicating with Ferrante via email.

Last year, an investigative journalist for Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore identified Italian literary translator Anita Raja as Ferrante. Costanzo says his focus is strictly on translating Ferrante’s work to the screen.

“I am among those who are not interested who she [really is]. I am just interested in her literary world, not her human reality,” Costanzo said.

The Telegraph

My Brilliant Friend: a fleet, sleek adaptation of Ferrante’s novels – review

My Brilliant Friend
Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack in ‘My Brilliant Friend’ CREDIT: MARC BRENNER

Elena Ferrante’s extraordinary quartet of novels about the passionate, treacherous friendship between two women in post-war Naples inspires masochistic behaviour among devotees. There are tales of readers skipping mealtimes, sleep, even social arrangements in order to gobble them up. So I suspect fans will shrug off the challenge of watching April de Angelis’s adaptation, which condenses the quartet into two two-and-a-half-hour shows that can be seen either on a single day or over two consecutive evenings. (This is not the sort of project in which it is not done to see only half. You are in for the long haul or not at all.)

So does it work? Namely, how do you put on stage the borderline narcissistic, relentless mono-perspective of these novels, each one an implacably interior account by a writer called Elena of her turbulent, decades-long relationship with her former school friend Lila? You don’t, is the answer.

My Brilliant Friend
Catherine McCormack as Lila CREDIT: MARC BRENNER

Instead, de Angelis’s fleet, sleek adaptation breaks away from Elena’s omnipotent viewpoint to release all the cinematic drama seething beneath. This, in Melly Still’s noirish production, is The Sopranos by way of women’s lib, where slick-suited gangsters mingle at weddings, where communists fight with the fascists and where, amid the broiling violence and poverty, two intellectually precocious girls, Lila and Elena (known as Lenu) wrestle against both the gender expectations of their heavily circumscribed upbringing and the mythic ties of an impossible friendship in which both women are destined to fight forever against the shadow of the other.

There is something of an Italian Hedda Gabler about Catherine McCormack’s Lila, the uncontainable, self-sabotaging brilliant young girl who combines a “refusal to submit to reality” with a yearning for self annihilation. McCormack plays her with plenty of scorn and a streak of lethal nihilism – even as a seven-year-old, maliciously dropping Lenu’s favourite doll into a cellar, McCormack finds in her long-haired, bare-footed Lila a dead eyed fatalism, as though the character already knows how her story will turn out. The stench of clinical depression hangs over her like a cloud.

My Brilliant Friend
A scene from ‘My Brilliant Friend’ CREDIT: MARC BRENNER

Niamh Cusack is less obvious casting as Lenu and, for Part One at least, is the bit player in Lila’s drama. Yet as the production grows, so does her performance. Unlike the more talented Lila, Lenu becomes a novelist but struggles to combine motherhood with her career. We are told throughout that Lenu is “good” but Cusack captures the softly monstrous ego behind Lenu’s seemingly placid surfaces – a writer who stealthily steals stories from both Lila’s life and imagination and who years later has to wrestle with whether an act of self promotion is the cause of an unspeakable loss.

Still’s muscular staging, in which a pop soundtrack eloquently tracks the changing years, beautifully summons the claustrophobic heat of downtown Naples, where washing hangs from iron balconies, wives fight like alleycats over husbands and business men are knifed in broad daylight.

It’s full, too, of moments of visual flair: when Lila is beaten up – by her dad; by her husband – she sheds her dress and the men pummel the empty cloth instead. For the most part, both play and production powerfully combine a shocking intimacy with a widescreen account of post-war Italian history. They manage, too, the seemingly impossible: despite the almost unquantifiable number of hours I have now spent in the company of Lila and Lenu, I left this wanting still more.

The New York Times

Elena Ferrante’s Naples Novels to Make Their Way to TV

PARIS — The Italian director Saverio Costanzo has signed on to direct and to help write a 32-part television series based on the four Neapolitan novels by the author who publishes under the pseudonym Elena Ferrante.

The novels, published between 2012 and 2014, have developed a cult international following. They are “My Brilliant Friend,” “The Story of a New Name,” “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” and “The Story of the Lost Child,” and trace the lives of two friends, Elena and Lila, from their childhoods in postwar Naples to the present.

Mr. Costanzo, best known for “Private” and “Hungry Hearts” (which co-starred Adam Driver), said in a telephone interview that the biggest challenge to adapting the novels for television was how “to convey the same emotions as the books in a cinematographic way.”

He added that he was writing the script with the Italian writers Francesco Piccolo and Laura Paolucci, and that Ms. Ferrante was also expected to contribute to the screenplay. (He expects to communicate with the author via email.)

The series will be filmed in Italy in Italian. The first season will cover the first book, with eight episodes of 50 minutes each. Filming is expected to begin in Naples this year and the first season is expected to air in the fall of 2018.

A spokeswoman for Wildside, an Italian producer making the series with Fandango, confirmed that talks were in the final stages with a major American producer, as well as with the RAI state broadcaster. Wildside also co-produced Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope,” starring Jude Law as the first American pope, a coproduction with HBO, Canal+ and Sky.

Last fall, an Italian investigative journalist said financial records indicated that the Italian literary translator Anita Raja was behind Ms. Ferrante’s books, prompting an international outcry among the novelist’s protective fans. Ms. Raja has previously denied she was the author.

Mr. Costanzo said he wasn’t interested in the author’s true identity. “It’s her literary reality that counts,” he said. “I’m one of those people who don’t care who she is.”

Vulture

The Elena Ferrante TV Adaptation Has Found a Director and Release Date

By

That adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels we heard about last year is really, truly happening. Per the New York Times, Saverio Costanzo (Hungry Hearts) has signed on to direct and help write the 32-episode series, which will cover the elusive Ferrante’s four linked novels My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. The adaptation will be shot in Italy in Italian, and written by a team of Italian writers with the help of Ferrante herself, whom Costanzo plans to talk with via email. Italian producer Wildside, which also produced The Young Pope, is in talks with American and Italian broadcasters. The series is expected to air in 2018.

Jezebel

Italian Director Saverio Costanzo Will Helm the Television Adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels

Variety

Novelist Elena Ferrante Spawns Documentary ‘Ferrante Fever’, Match Factory Takes Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

The Guardian

The epic task of bringing the enigmatic Elena Ferrante’s books to life

Naples, the setting for Ferrante’s book series

Francesco Piccolo will collaborate with the pseudonymous novelist to turn her books into an Italian TV drama – but not in person

For Francesco Piccolo, being given the job of transforming one of the most exciting works of contemporary literature into a television drama is the professional challenge of a lifetime.

But the deal to dramatise the four-book series by the pseudonymous writer known as Elena Ferrante comes with a peculiar catch. To protect the closely guarded secret of Ferrante’s true identity, the award-winning novelist and screenwriter will have to collaborate with Ferrante, who retains some creative control over the project, entirely by email.

“She will not literally write the script but she will read – I believe – everything. Every single draft, every single scene. She will go through it and by email she will express her thoughts, suggestions, advice,” said Maurizio Dell’Orso, who handles television rights for Ferrante’s publisher, Edizioni E/O. “She is not the kind of person who says: ‘I wrote it, now you go do the rest.’”

Asked whether Ferrante – whose first book in the series is called My Brilliant Friend – might widen the circle of people who know her identity in order to more freely collaborate with the writers and director who will be reworking thousands of pages of her text, the answer was decisive: no. All communication, including with Piccolo, a famous novelist in his own right, will likely pass through her editors Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola, as it always has.

“It will not be very easy, probably,” said an official at Fandango, the Italian production house that is co-producing the series with Wildside, before quickly adding: “The books are so good, maybe it doesn’t matter.”

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