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Playwright Lee Hall and director Ivo van Hove have cast Michelle Dockery as the female lead in their highly anticipated London stage adaptation of the Sidney Lumet film, Network.
The Downton Abbey star will play Diana Christensen, the ambitious U.S. television executive who blurs the lines separating entertainment, news and naked human suffering in her unethical quest for ratings glory. The role won an Oscar for Faye Dunaway in the 1976 film, which was written by Paddy Chayefsky.
Dockery joins previously announced lead Bryan Cranston, who will make his British stage debut as Howard Beale, the psychologically unstable news anchor pushed over the edge by the escalating cynicism of a media landscape in which opinion trumps fact. That role won a posthumous Oscar for Peter Finch.
The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won four, including original screenplay for Chayefsky and supporting actress for Beatrice Straight.
The production marks a homecoming to the National Theatre for Dockery, who made her professional stage debut there in His Dark Materials in 2004, and was nominated for an Olivier Award for best supporting actress in 2009 in Burnt By the Sun.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be going back to the National after eight years,” said Dockery in a statement. “To be working with Bryan Cranston and Ivo van Hove on an adaptation of this brilliant film is a rare and exhilarating opportunity.”
Hall is best known as the screenwriter of Billy Elliot and Tony-winning book writer of that film’s hit stage musical adaptation. His plays include The Pitmen Painters, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and a stage version of Shakespeare in Love. His work as a screenwriter includes War Horse and Stephen Frears‘ upcoming Victoria and Abdul, which will premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
Belgian experimental theater luminary van Hove won a Tony Award in 2016 for his revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. He has a long history of reshaping classic films for the stage, including works by Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
The National’s production of Network will be the first stage version of Chayefsky’s classic film, beginning previews Nov. 4 and officially opening Nov. 13. The world-premiere limited engagement will run through March 24, 2018.
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