Last Updated on February 9, 2018
There is oh-so-much happening right now in the world of historical costume dramas and period films. Here is a round-up with some highlights of what’s new – and what’s news – that you’ll want to know about.
Some of the bits below relate to current goings-on in the UK. Keep your eyes open for these period films coming to the U.S. and Canada, and other reaches of the world.
There’s a new adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ 1868 mystery, The Moonstone, starring Sarah Hadland and John Thomson, Joshua Silver, Sophie Ward and Stewart Clarke. The five-part period series will air on BBC One in the UK beginning October 31st, 2016.
The charismatic Franklin Blake realises he can only win the heart of his true love, the beautiful and independent Rachel Verinder, if he finds the thief. He persuades the celebrated detective Sergeant Cuff out of retirement to assist him in investigating the theft and, with the help of the Verinder family’s trusted servant Gabriel Betteredge, they travel between London and Yorkshire in their quest.
Full of cliffhangers, tragedy and intrigue, The Moonstone is the perfect treat for BBC One Daytime viewers. Wilkie Collins’ famous book not only created the template for Agatha Christie and all who came after, it invented the modern detective mystery novel.
A Place to Call Home, Season 4 will have an exclusive U.S. premiere, beginning November 24, Thanksgiving Day on Acorn TV.
Called ”Down Under Downton” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), this addictive period drama takes place against the backdrop of post-World War II Australia. Marta Dusseldorp stars as Sarah Adams, a nurse who becomes involved in the affairs of the wealthy Bligh family.
Dealing with themes such as anti-Semitism, sexuality, and social class, this rich and meaningful, high-quality production is Acorn’s most popular new series. The series co-stars David Berry, recently cast as Lord Grey in Outlander.
For the upcoming CBC / Netflix series, newcomer Amybeth McNulty will play Anne Shirley in the adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s classic novel Anne of Green Gables.
Geraldine James (The Jewel in the Crown, The Hound of the Baskervilles, He Knew He Was Right, A Harlot’s Progress) will play Marilla and R.H. Thomson will play Matthew Cuthbert. Canadian-born Thomson played Jasper Dale in the long-running period series Avonlea, and was the priest in By Way of the Stars (also from Sullivan Entertainment).
Read more about the Netflix, and the PBS adaptations of Anne of of Green Gables.
The Victorian Slum is a 5-episode reality documentary which premieres on October 10, 2016 on BBC Two. In this historically based program, a group of 21st-century people move into a Victorian tenement that has been painstakingly brought back to life in the heart of London’s East End.
About the participants’ experience, the BBC said “They’ll experience the tough living and working conditions endured by the millions that made up the urban poor in Victorian Britain. In a world with no safety net they’ll be expected to earn enough to put food on the table, pay their rent and keep the roof over their head.”
Victoria, the historical drama that chronicles the Queen’s incredible 64-year reign, and currently showing on ITV in the UK, will have a second season. There will also be a 2017 Christmas special. Victoria is a landmark account of Britain’s former longest-reigning monarch who acceded the throne in a time of resurgent republicanism.
Following the audience response to Victoria we are delighted that the extraordinary Jenna Coleman will be returning to her throne for a second series. The next few years of Victoria’s reign are packed full of extraordinary real life events, with constitutional crises, scandals at court and personal challenges aplenty for the Queen and Prince Albert. God Save the Queen! – Executive producer Damien Timmer
Victoria comes to the throne at a time of great economic turbulence and resurgent republicanism – and died 64 years later the head of the largest empire the world had ever seen, having revitalised the throne’s public image and become ‘grandmother of Europe’.
The first series of Victoria, written by Daisy Goodwin and produced by Mammoth Screen, tells the story of the first years of the reign, beginning with the moment of the Queen’s accession in 1837, following her first faltering steps from capricious, hormonal teenager with a weak grasp on her duties and responsibilities to her marriage to Albert.
The show is a saga of interlocking circles – the circuits of power in Buckingham Palace and Westminster, the intermarrying royal houses of Europe and the scandals of the below-stairs palace staff. At the centre stands the new Queen – a spirited, passionate woman who must, somehow, become an enduring icon of stability and strength.
BBC One will be adapting more of Agatha Christie’s stories over the next four years, including Ordeal By Innocence, The ABC Murders and Death Comes As The End.
The Witness For The Prosecution is a two-part drama starring Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall. The new mystery adaptation is expected to be part of BBC’s 2016 Christmas schedule.
With the long terrible shadow of the Great War falling across the rackety, feral 1920s, The Witness For The Prosecution is a compelling story of deceit, desire, murder, money and morality, innocence and guilt, heartbreak and – most painful and dangerous of all – love. At the centre of this dark and tangled net is the astonishing character of Romaine, a noir heroine for all our times. – Sarah Phelps, adaptation
These upcoming period dramas come on the heels of the recent Christmas-time release of And Then There Were None.
20th Century Fox is adapting Agatha Christie’s mystery Murder on the Orient Express. Kenneth Branagh (A Month in the Country, Henry V, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Wallander), who is directing the period film, will play Hercule Poirot. Also starring Johnny Depp as Ratchett, Michelle Pfeiffer as Mrs. Hubbard, Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Lucy Boynton as Countess Andrenyi, and Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham. Production begins this fall.
The classic mystery novel has previously been adapted for television (with David Suchet as Poirot) and for the big screen in 1974, starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, and Ingrid Bergman.
Here’s the synopsis of the original book: Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.
Starz has started production on The White Princess, the follow-up to The White Queen. Adapted from Philippa Gregory’s best-selling novel about the War of the Roses, the new 1485 set period mini-series will have eight episodes. Jodie Comer stars as Princess Elizabeth of York, and Jacob Collins-Levy is King Henry Tudor.
Also starring Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), Joanne Whalley (Wolf Hall, The Borgias), Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones), Suki Waterhouse (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Andrew Whipp (Outlander) and Rebecca Benson (Game of Thrones).
The White Princess sees England ostensibly united by the marriage of Elizabeth of York and King Henry VII, but their personal and political rift runs deep and the war that rages between them threatens to tear the kingdom apart once again. – Deadline Hollywood
You can watch The White Queen for free online now with Amazon Prime.
Time Warner’s Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection have joined together to provide a new streaming service, FilmStruck, which launches in November 2016.
FilmStruck is a new subscription on-demand service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films.
You can get a sense of the period dramas in the Criterion Collection from the post 100 Period Dramas Streaming on Hulu. After the launch of FilmStruck, Hulu will no longer be the home for the Criterion Collection.
In the family-friendly realm, there is to be a sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins Returns is set to begin shooting in London in early 2017, with a release date for Christmas 2018.
Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins, Emily Mortimer is Jane Banks, Ben Whishaw is Michael Banks, Meryl Streep is Mary Poppins’ cousin Topsy, Lin-Manuel Miranda is cast as a street lamplighter named Jack. If negations go through as planned, Colin Firth will play William Weatherall Wilkins, president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.
In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
The iconic original film means so much to me personally, and I look forward to creating an original movie musical that can bring Mary Poppins, and her message that childlike wonder can be found in even the most challenging of times, to a whole new generation. – Rob Marshall, co-director
Geoffrey Rush (The Kings Speech, Shakespeare in Love, Quills) has been cast as Albert Einstein in National Geographic Channel’s upcoming 10 episode dramatic series Genius.
This will be Geographic’s first scripted series, and will focus on Einstein’s scientific achievements as well as his personal relations. Genius is based on Walter Isaacson’s biography Einstein: His Life and Universe.
Not to be confused with the period drama of the same name starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, about the friendship between Thomas Wolfe and editor Maxwell Perkins.
Disney is remaking The Nutcraker, in a live-action movie called The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Keira Knightley will play the Sugar Plum Fairy. Also starring are Dame Helen Mirren, Miranda Hart, Mackenzie Foy, Morgan Freeman, and Misty Copeland, principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. The movie is based on the classic 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Filming on The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will start in late 2016. This should be a perfect Christmas-eve period watch with the family, presumably set in the Georgian era.
You may be interested to know that BBC Radio 4 has a full-cast dramatisation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s renowned Christmas story, which inspired Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker. You can listen to it for free with an Audible trial.
In addition to telling the familiar tale of the gentle young girl and her love for the enchanted Nutcracker, who leads the toy soldiers in a battle against the wicked Mouse King and whisks her away to the Land of Toys, the original text of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King also includes the story of the cursed Princess Pirlipat and the hard nut, which explains the background of how the poor Nutcracker came to be.
Feud is an upcoming 8-episode anthology series from FX that will offer a seductive, insightful look at what lies behind legendary personality conflicts. The first episode will focus on the dynamic between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) on the set of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Catherine Zeta-Jones has been cast as Hollywood’s Golden Age actress Olivia de Havilland (Gone With the Wind).
Also starring Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci, Judy Davis and Dominic Burgess. Production on the series is slated to begin this fall; the period series should premiere in 2018.
Benedict Cumberbatch will produce and star in a new period film adaptation of Geoffrey Household’s 1939 British suspense novel Rogue Male. The 1930s set book, has twice been adapted before, in 1940 by 20th Century Fox as Man Hunt, and in 1977 by the BBC, starring Peter O’Toole. They tell the story of a British game hunter who “takes aim at the biggest prize of all, Adolf Hitler. Captured and tortured, the hunter becomes the hunted as Nazi spies pursue him back to England in a desperate fight to the death.”
Cumberbatch said “I am thrilled both as an actor and producer to be working on bringing this most treasured of English novels to the big screen.”
A period drama about children’s book author AA Milne is in production. Though not yet titled, the film’s working title is Goodbye Christopher Robin. Directed by Simon Curtis, the movie stars Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Stephen Campbell Moore and Alex Lawther. The period drama is expected to premiere in theaters in the US in 2017.
The film promises to provide a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh.
Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie), and his nanny Olive, Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family?
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughn, the film charts the Milnes as they struggle with fame in the years following the First World War, as well as their relationship with their son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), who inspired the beloved Winnie the Pooh books. – The Telegraph
Medici: Masters of Florence is a new, 8-episode series just premiering in Italy (October 17, 2106). This period drama set in Florence in the early 15th century looks at the Medici family and the politics that surround them. In the first season (taking place around 1429-34), Cosimo de’ Medici finds himself at the helm of his supremely wealthy, banking dynasty family, when his father, Giovanni dies suddenly. Now Cosimo must unearth his killer in order to protect the wealth and power of the family.
Costumes, decor, the embroidered cloth on which Cosimo and Contessina de Medici pledge their marriage troth is exquisite; locations – Florence’s Dome, for instance, are stunning. – Variety
Starring Dustin Hoffman as Giovanni de Medici, Richard Madden as his son, Guido Caprino, Stuart Martin, Tatjana Nardone, Annabel Scholey and Giorgio Caputo.
In an interview with Variety, the series’ producer Lux Vide, said “Season 1 is really about Cosimo’s journey. In our story we emphasize his love of art and how he used his power and influence as head of the Medici bank to foster the revolutionary art that led to the Renaissance. Season 1 is really the beginning of the revolution and it’s only in future seasons of the series that we would see that revolution truly come to pass.”
The period drama has already been renewed for a second season, and the producer said “For future seasons, we do not feel obligated to move in a straight line.”
Allied will be released in theaters in the US on November 23rd, 2016. The new British-American romantic spy thriller is directed by Robert Zemeckis, and is written by Steven Knight. The Second World War era period film stars Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris.
In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.
The inspirations for the film’s costumes were Casablanca (1942) and Now, Voyager (1942), where the costumes combined both simplicity and beauty.
Halfire Entertainment, CBC and Netflix are now filming a six-hour miniseries screen adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. Set in the mid-nineteenth century, Alias Grace is both a chilling true-life murder mystery and a story about the immigrant experience,” said Noreen Halpern, Executive Producer.
Alias Grace follows Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott, was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin) in 1843. Nancy is Kinnear’s housekeeper and lover, and while she initially befriends Grace, she begins to resent Grace and becomes increasingly jealous of Kinnear’s affection for her. Nancy eventually fires Grace in a fit of rage and is later found brutally murdered.
Inspired by the true story of Grace Marks who was convicted of murdering Nancy Montgomery and Thomas Kinnear.
Starring Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Anna Paquin, Paul Gross, Zachary Levi, Rebecca Liddiard, Kerr Logan, and David Cronenberg. Alias Grace will be broadcast in Canada on CBC and globally – everywhere outside of Canada – on Netflix.
According to The Mark Gordon Company, C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair will be a “new, magical chapter of the Narnia franchise to fans around the world, both old and new.” The Silver Chair will be adapted by David Magee (Finding Neverland).
This will be the fourth film in The Chronicles of Narnia series, following The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). Time Magazine reports that “the latest news suggests that this film will mark a “reboot” of the franchise, with an all-new cast.”
There’s a new BBC One period drama series called My Mother and Other Strangers. Set in Northern Ireland, there will be five hour-long episodes in this Second World War era love story.
My Mother And Other Strangers follows the fortunes of a rural family, the Coynes, and their neighbours in the village of Moybeg on the shores of Lough Neagh in County Tyrone, as they struggle to maintain a normal life after a huge USAAF airfield with 4,000 service men and women – complete with a handsome and charming liaison officer, Captain Dreyfuss – lands smack-dab in the middle of their parish in 1943.
Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, says it is “the perfect historically based premise to produce strong drama…for international audiences as well as UK and Irish audiences.”
In the drama, compelling weekly stories – many of them based on events of the time – are held together by an ongoing love story that enfolds and imprisons Rose and Michael Coyne and Captain Dreyfuss in a dangerous love triangle. Meanwhile, Rose’s children Emma (16), Francis (10) and Kate (7) have no idea of the strains under which their parents’ marriage creaks. (BBC)
Starring Aaron Staton, Hattie Morahan, Kerr Logan, Des McAleer, Seamus O’Hara, Fiona O’Shaugnessy and Ryan McParland. Slated for a November 2016 release in the UK.
Versailles premiered in the US on October 1, 2016 on Ovation and the viewers showed up: According to Variety, “the lush and sultry French period drama from Simon Mirren and David Wolstencroft about King Louis XIV, has become the most-watched telecast to date on Ovation TV in the U.S.”
The year is 1667. King Louis XIV of France is 28 and finally in sole command of his kingdom. Haunted by childhood memories of a bitter coup against his father, he commissions the most beautiful palace in Europe, Versailles.
The nobles crave entry to this lavish château, not realizing that its purpose is to imprison and control them. One of Louis’ prime targets is his younger brother, Monsieur, an effeminate dandy and formidable warrior. The court is also a battleground for love as Louis’ queen, Marie Therese, fights to tame his wandering eye.
Can she win back his heart from his mistress, the sister of the King of England? Welcome to a world of power and betrayal, love, lust and declarations of war, where courtiers battle for the King’s favor. This is Versailles in all its brutal glory.
The Crown’s 10-episode first season is scheduled to premiere on November 4, 2016 on Netflix.
The Crown tells the inside story of two of the most famous addresses in the world – Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street – and the intrigues, love lives and machinations behind the great events that shaped the second half of the 20th century. Two houses, two courts, one Crown.
The Crown, the most expensive drama ever made by the U.S. streaming company and its first to be made in the UK, will trace the life of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom from her wedding in 1947 to the present day. It is expected to span 60 episodes over six seasons with Claire Foy, last seen as Anne Boleyn in BBC’s Wolf Hall, playing the Queen in the early part of her reign.
Starring Claire Foy, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, Jared Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Greg Wise.
And will there be a Downton Abbey movie? As of mid-September, 2016, we know that Julian Fellowes already has a plot in mind, and that the actors are game (though there is some question about whether or not Maggie Smith would be able to be involved). In conversation with Elle, he said “I’m just waiting to hear the powers that be give their permission.”
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to wander over to The Period Films List, for the best historical costumes dramas, sorted by era. You may also want to know about the latest period dramas releases from around the world that are showing at the 2016 London Film Festival. For more news of what’s new, be sure to visit the Summer 2016 Period Drama Releases post as well, and see the Fall 2016 PBS Line-up.