Ridley Scott, Asif Kapadia to Adapt Nonfiction Best-Seller 'Sapiens' (Exclusive)

The adaptation will explore how man became the planet's dominant species.
Courtesy of Harper
'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind' cover

Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien) and Oscar-winning documentarian Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna) are teaming together to adapt the international best-seller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Israeli professor Yuval Noah Harari.

Immediately calling to mind such event series as Carl Sagan's Cosmos (also a book) and the BBC's Planet Earth, Sapiens has an expansive reach: charting the entire journey of human beings from prehistoric creatures to the present. Harari tries to explain how Homo sapiens, just one of many branches of the early sapien's family tree, came to dominate the planet. “Nobody, least of all humans themselves," he writes, "had any inkling that their descendants would one day walk on the moon, split the atom, fathom the genetic code and write history books.”

Scott will produce and Kapadia will direct the adaptation. Given the scope of the material, the exact format for the adaptation is being kept open-ended right now, but a multiplatform event experience is imagined for the material.

Said Kapadia in a statement, "It is a book that changes how you see the world and our adaptation should do the same, to serve as a wake-up call for who we are, where we have come from and where we are heading." Added Scott, “For years Asif and I have been looking for a project to collaborate on," and Sapiens "has all the elements to be massively entertaining as well as historically important.” (Indeed, Scott first approached Kapadia after seeing his debut film, The Warrior, in 2001.)

Harari, a professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, gave a sense of the project in the statement, "We hope to mix science, fiction, history, drama and genius in order to bring to life the incredible journey of our species, that began as an insignificant animal and is now on the verge of becoming a god.” Sapiens has sold 8 million copies worldwide since its publication in 2011 and counts Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg among its readers.

Sapiens offers clarity by exploring profound questions about our place in the history and the future of the world, said Itzik Yahav, managing director of the professor's international office and who represents Harari and his works, in the statement. "We're extremely excited to partner with such distinguished filmmakers to bring these ideas to new audiences through the medium of film.”

Scott and Kapadia secured the rights, represented by WME, in 2017. The development of the project is being supported by Wellcome. The project will be a co-production between Scott Free Productions and On the Corner Films and executive produced for Scott Free by Jack Arbuthnott and David Zucker and for On the Corner by Kapadia and James Gay-Rees. Itzik Yahav and Eilona Ariel will executive produce for Yuval Noah Harari’s International Office.

Attorney David Fox represents Yuval Noah Harari’s International Office. WME represents Scott and Kapadia and represented the book rights on this project. 

8:30 a.m.: Updated to clarify Harari's representation on the project.

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