The Netflix adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1996 novel Alias Grace has added Academy Award winner Anna Paquin to its cast ahead of an imminent shoot in Canada. The project is a high profile endeavour for the streaming platform, which has made significant advances in the realm of original programming in recent years. Alias Grace is particularly noteworthy, however, as it will be written and directed by women, with a female-led cast.
The source material is a novelization of true events that occurred in Canada in the 1840s. The tale centres on Grace Marks, who worked as a maid for a man of means, named Thomas Kinnear. In 1843, Marks was convicted of the murder of Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. The charges asserted that she committed the crime alongside stable-hand James McDermott. While McDermott was hanged for the killings, Marks’ conviction was considered to be controversial, as there was question over her actual level of involvement. She was incarcerated for 30 years, before being pardoned.
Alias Grace will star Sarah Gadon (Enemy) in the role of Grace Marks, while Anna Paquin will play the ill-fated housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Zachary Levi will also co-star. This will be delivered in the format of a six-hour miniseries, directed entirely by Mary Harron (American Psycho), and written by Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz, Away From Her).
It is the combination of talents that makes this miniseries such an exciting prospect. Sarah Polley has been quietly establishing herself as an excellent filmmaker in her own right, and will undoubtedly bring her director’s eye to her screenwriting once more for Alias Grace. Her particular strength is in crafting compelling characters – specifically women – and this is exactly what is needed here. Polley working in partnership with Mary Harron – a formidable directing talent, whose body of work demonstrates the ease with which she marries all aspects of storytelling with the image and frame – is a powerful thing.
Bringing these filmmakers together with true-life source material written by the legendary Margaret Atwood and a stellar cast virtually guarantees the success of Alias Grace when it finally lands on Netflix – possibly in 2017.