Benedict Cumberbatch to Star in World War II Epic 'The War Magician'

Gary Whitta, who wrote 'The Book of Eli' and worked on 'Rogue One,' is penning the adaptation.
John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI
Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch is attached to star in The War Magician, a World War II epic tale that Studio Canal is financing.

Storyscape Entertainment principals Bob Cooper and Richard Saperstein, who made the announcement on Tuesday, are producing the pic, which has Garry Whitta adapting the fact-based book by David Fisher. No director currently is on board the project. 

Cumberbatch will portray British hero Jasper Maskelyne, the titular spellbinder whose clever illusions helped the Allied forces fight the Nazis during World War II. 

According to the producers, Maskelyne put together a ragā€tag “dirty dozen” of accomplices dubbed “The Magic Gang” who used illusion tricks to hide strategic targets such as the Alexandria harbor near the Suez Canal, in the process concealing 150,000 men with 1,000 guns and tanks. The book says the illusions helped turn the tide of the war against General Rommel and the Germans in North Africa, leading up to the Battle of El Alamein.

The announcement states that Maskelyne’s techniques were so effective that Adolf Hitler added him to his personal blacklist alongside men like General Douglas MacArthur and British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery who, if captured alive, were to receive “special” treatment by the Nazis.

War Magician will be a co-production between Storyscape, Tony Eldridge's Lonetree Entertainment (The Equalizer) and SunnyMarch, Cumberbatch's own production company he founded in 2013. SunnyMarch partners Adam Ackland and Adam Selves will act as producers on the pic.

UTA packaged the project and negotiated the financing arrangement along with John Grant of Conway van Gelder Grant. 

Storyscape is the newly-launched production company from veteran producers Cooper and Saperstein and has a first-look deal with Broad Green Pictures. Cooper recently wrapped production on Maudie, starring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins, and Saperstein recently began pre-production on the remake of the 1958 sci-fi classic The Blob with Samuel L. Jackson set to star.

Whitta, repped by UTA, Circle of Confusion, Berh & Abramson, is best known for his work in the action and sci-fi genres. He wrote the Denzel Washington post-apocalyptic thriller The Book of Eli (2010) and worked on Star Wars: Rogue One, the upcoming Star Wars standalone. Whitta also is adapting the Mark Millar sci-fi comic Starlight for Fox.

UTA-repped Cumberbatch is currently shooting Doctor Strange for Marvel Studios.

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