The film rights to Matt Haig's new novel How to Stop Time have been pre-empted, with BAFTA-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch attached to play the lead and executive produce.
Cumberbatch's production company SunnyMarch and Studiocanal pre-empted film rights for the book, which is due to publish with Canongate in July.
The deal was negotiated between SunnyMarch’s m.d. Adam Ackland who will produce the film and Nick Marston of Curtis Brown who brokered it on behalf of Matt Haig and Conville and Walsh.
Cumberbatch, whose roles include Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game" and Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series, will executive produce the film through his SunnyMarch production company alongside Jamie Byng, c.e.o. of Canongate Books.
Studiocanal is fully financing the film and will distribute it in their territories: UK, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and handle international sales.
How to Stop Time is Haig's first adult novel in four years and, according to Canongate, "a wildly imagined love story" spanning centuries and continents. It tells the story of Tom Hazard, to be played by Cumberbatch, a man who may look like an ordinary 41-year-old but, owing to an extremely rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Always changing his identity to avoid detection, he now has seemingly the perfect cover – as a history teacher in a London school.
StudioCanal also bought film rights to A Boy Called Christmas by Haig.
Haig said: “The prospect of Benedict Cumberbatch playing Tom Hazard is a hugely exciting one and I could not be happier about working with Adam and Jamie, and to be reunited with Studiocanal."
Ackland added: “We have been huge fans of Matt's for a long time and always admired his wonderfully playful and deeply honest work. How to Stop Time delivers all of this and much much more...we are truly excited to be taking this on with such a talented team already in place.”
StudioCanal UK c.e.o Danny Perkins added that the “compelling” novel will make for a “powerful film that falls in line with Studiocanal ongoing commitment to British talent, storytelling and production. We look forward to bringing it to audiences around the world.”
Haig’s most recent children’s book, The Girl Who Saved Christmas, was published in late 2016 in over 20 countries and is the sequel to A Boy Called Christmas.
Haig’s other books include his memoir Reasons to Stay Alive which stayed in the Sunday Times’ top-ten bestseller list for 46 weeks and The Humans, which been published all over the world.