In 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch toplined The Imitation Game, a drama which had him cracking the infamous enigma code for the Allies as genius pioneer Alan Turing. Now, the British thesp is ready to help the Allied forces once more in The War Magician – albeit using a somewhat different approach.
Based on David Fisher’s fact-based novel of the same name, Cumberbatch will play Jasper Maskelyne, a world famous magician who puts his deft skills to good use to trick the Nazis during the throes of the second world war. Assembling a posse of amateur illusionists called The Magic Gang, Maskelyne was supposedly able to conceal Ally infantry from the prying eyes of German forces, thereby protecting key landmarks such as Alexandria harbor and the Suez Canal. In fact, Fisher’s novel states that the trickster proved indispensable in turning the tide of war against the Germans in North Africa, all culminating with the Battle of El Alamein.
Book of Eli scribe Gary Whitta is adapting the project, with Studio Canal attached to finance and distribute the feature domestically, while Bob Cooper and Richard Saperstein of Storyscape Entertainment will produce.
Much like the elusive figure The War Magician centers on, in the past Hollywood studios have hit roadblock after roadblock in trying to conjure up a feature film based on Maskelyne’s purported heroics. For instance, there was a time when the picture had set up shop at Paramount with Mission: Impossible veteran Tom Cruise in line to star, though such a project never fully materialized.
From head-scratching algorithms to smoke and mirrors, Benedict Cumberbatch is headed back to World War II for The War Magician, though the project is still in search for a director to take the reins.