New York Post: How Elena Ferrante’s ‘Neopolitan Novels’ made it to HBO

On New York Post

Lauren Sarner – Nov 12, 2018

Nobody knows who wrote the wildly popular “Neapolitan Novels” — not even the creators of HBO’s Italian-language adaptation of the literary phenomenon.

The international bestselling four-book series has sold more than 10 million copies in 40 countries, but its author is unknown — using the pseudonym Elena Ferrante.

“Her identity is as guarded from us as it is to the rest of the world,” says Jennifer Schuur, the only American executive producer on “My Brilliant Friend,” airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

“[Director and writer] Saverio [Costanzo] will email [Ferrante] through her publisher, and then her publisher will pass it along and she will email back,” says Schuur. “They communicate that way.”


In the eight-episode first season, which is based on the first book, “My Brilliant Friend,” Elena and Lila are played by newcomers Elisa del Genio and Ludovica Nasti as children, and Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace as teens.

Schuur (who’s also worked on “Hannibal” and “Big Love”) says the casting process was no walk in the park. More than 8,000 children auditioned.

“In the books, it lives and dies by the girls and watching that relationship over the course of 60 years,” she says. “You’re going to have four sets of actresses playing the characters over time, so that … is a challenge. Then, on top of that, you have to find actresses who speak in the Neapolitan dialect, because that was the only way to bring this to life in an authentic way. So you can’t even just cast from all of Italy. You have to go to this one small place in the South.”

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