Knightley to star in TV adaptation of Essex Serpent

Knightley to star in TV adaptation of Essex Serpent

Keira Knightley is to star in an adaptation of Sarah Perry's novel The Essex Serpent for Apple TV+. 

TV rights were sold by Emily Hickman at The Agency to See-Saw Films, whose works include "The King's Speech" and "Top of the Lake". The adaptation will be directed by Clio Barnard, with screenplay by Anna Symon.

Knightley, Barnard and Symon will executive produce alongside Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Patrick Walters, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman. Andrea Cornwell will serve as producer.

The drama was commissioned by Apple out of the UK by Apple’s heads of worldwide video Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and creative director for Europe worldwide video Jay Hun. 

Set in 1893, the novel revolves around the newly widowed Cora (to be played by Knightley), who relocates to Essex, drawn by the local superstition of a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent. 

Serpent’s Tail published the novel in 2016, and is set to release a tie-in edition to coincide with the TV/streaming launch. The book has sold 359,747 copies for £3.3m across all editions, according to Nielsen Bookscan UK TCM.

The Essex Serpent was the British Book Awards' Book of the Year in 2017 and the Waterstones Book of the Year in 2016, and was nominated for the Wellcome, Costa, Walter Scott and Women’s Prize, among others, with rights sold in 22 languages.

Dates for the TV adaptation are expected to be announced soon. 

Sarah Perry’s first non-fiction book, Essex Girls: For Profane and Opinionated Women Everywhere, will be published by Serpent's Tail on 1st October.