ITV axes 'Passage to India'

Economic downturn cited as reason

LONDON -- U.K. commercial web ITV said Friday that it has shelved plans for a lavish new adaptation of EM Forster's novel "A Passage to India."

The broadcaster said the plan to scrap the drama was for financial reasons, with the global economic downturn playing no small part in the decision.

The high-end adaptation was due to start shooting in January and had a who's-who of British talent lined up to star, including Matthew Macfadyen, Laurence Fox, Gemma Jones. Talks were ongoing with "Happy-Go-Lucky" star Sally Hawkins.

It is reported that ITV beat out competition from the BBC to secure the rights to the novel and had been in preproduction on it for weeks now. Originally planned as an in-house ITV Studios production for the commercial web, the show was planned for flagship channel ITV1.

ITV, listed here on the stock market, has endured 12 months of stock turmoil with a slump in its share price and has been left reeling from knocks in plunging advertising revenue.

The TV drama, based on the 1924 novel about a young Englishwoman who travels to India to visit her fiance, was to be directed by Adrian Shergold, whose credits include dramas "He Kills Coppers" and "Low Winter Sun."

An ITV spokesman said: "We are working hard to make sure that we extract maximum value from the schedule and spend money carefully and, as a result, we will not be taking forward the commission of 'A Passage to India.' We remain committed to high-quality drama on ITV1 and in 2009 have the likes of 'Demons,' Law & Order: UK,' 'Wuthering Heights,' 'Whitechapel' and the return of 'Primeval' coming to screen."

The story was last seen on screen in David Lean's 1984 movie version, which starred Judy Davis and Peggy Ashcroft, the latter winning an Oscar for her turn.