Lily James to Join Gillian Anderson in Stage Adaptation of 'All About Eve'

Gillian Anderson - Lily James - Split-Getty-H 2018
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Tony-winning Belgian director Ivo van Hove will reimagine the classic Joseph L. Mankiewicz tale of Broadway backstabbers at London's Noel Coward Theatre in February.

Lily James has signed on to play a famous screen character whose name has become a synonym for calculating climbers, Eve Harrington.

London entertainment-news columnist Baz Bamigboye broke the casting scoop in the Daily Mail this week that James will star opposite the previously reported Gillian Anderson as imperious New York stage diva Margo Channing in Belgian experimental theater director Ivo van Hove's upcoming adaptation of the classic backstage drama All About Eve.

The production originally was scheduled to open early this year on London's West End, with Cate Blanchett announced to play Margo, but the Australian Oscar winner dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, putting the play on hold.

The project, presented by Sonia Friedman Productions and Fox Theatricals, is now on track to begin rehearsals in January, with preview performances starting Feb. 2 ahead of a Feb. 12 opening at the Noel Coward Theatre in a limited run scheduled through May 11. The cast will also include Monica Dolan, Sheila Reid and Rhashan Stone, with original music by PJ Harvey.

The celebrated 1950 Joseph L. Mankiewicz film starred Bette Davis in one of her signature roles as Margo, with Anne Baxter as the fawning acolyte whose devotion flatters the older woman, leaving her vulnerable to ambitious Eve's opportunism. The movie was nominated for 14 Oscars and won six, including best picture.

Van Hove has become something of a specialist at retooling movies for the stage, mounting expressionist productions based on the works of Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Leading transatlantic theater producer Friedman recently triumphed at the Tony Awards with six wins including best play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is doing blockbuster business in both London and New York, with productions in Australia and San Francisco up next. Friedman is readying a Broadway transfer this fall of Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman, directed by Sam Mendes; and in spring she is teaming with Manhattan Theatre Club and The Almeida Theatre Company to co-produce James Graham's Ink, about Rupert Murdoch's initial foray into British tabloids in the late 1960s.

Given Friedman's track record and the iconic stature of the screen property, it seems a safe bet that All About Eve is being eyed as another potential Broadway vehicle. The New York theater community also is eager to see van Hove return to Broadway after his back-to-back successes in the 2015-16 theater season with Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge and The Crucible, the former winning him a Tony for best direction of a play.

Since her breakout role on Downton Abbey, James' films have included Cinderella, Baby Driver and Darkest Hour. She plays the younger version of Meryl Streep's character in this summer's ABBA movie musical sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. On stage, she most recently starred on the West End in Romeo and Juliet, reuniting with her Cinderella director Kenneth Branagh and co-star Richard Madden.

Anderson's extensive stage credits include playing Blanche DuBois in a 2014 London production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which she reprised two years later in New York, starring opposite Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby. Anderson and James both appeared in the 2016 BBC miniseries War & Peace.