Jim Broadbent to Headline ‘Harold Fry’ Novel Adaptation, Embankment Launches Sales Ahead of EFM

Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning actor Jim Broadbent (“The Duke”) will lead the cast of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” an adaptation of Rachel Joyce’s bestselling novel.

Broadbent will play the eponymous Harold, who embarks upon a 450-mile walk across the U.K. in the belief that his journey will save the life of his old friend Queenie who is dying in a hospice.

BAFTA winner Hettie Macdonald (“Normal People”) will direct.

“Rachel’s beautiful story is made for cinema: a raw and emotional portrait of a man battling long-buried feelings of grief and guilt in a vast landscape,” said Macdonald. “I find Harold’s journey across England and his belief that he can make a difference extraordinarily moving and inspiring. I am enormously excited to be working with Jim Broadbent who I know will use his warmth, range and sensitivity to create an onscreen Harold who will lodge deep in the hearts of everyone who sees it.”

The 2012 novel, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, won the U.K. National Book Award for the new writer of the year, and was a New York Times bestseller, has sold some 5 million copies worldwide.

“This story is a deeply personal one that has been with me for many years, and has resonated with readers, both young and old,” said Joyce. “Re-imagining it with Hettie has lifted it to a new level and I know she will make a film that will be beautiful, universal and truthful. It was a ‘small’ book that took the world by storm. We want the film to do the same.”

Kevin Loader of Free Range Films (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”) produces alongside Essential Cinema’s Juliet Dowling and Marilyn Milgrom, who together originated the project that has been developed with the support of the British Film Institute.

Embankment is on board as executive producers and will be selling the film worldwide ahead of Berlin’s European Film Market.

Embankment’s Tim Haslam said: “ ‘Harold Fry invites audiences to make their own pilgrimage and is just what the world could use right now: it is richly humorous, poignant, sometimes painful – always revealing, empowering and transformative. What better time to reflect on our lives and to take positives from the world around us.”

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” will shoot in the third quarter of the year on location across the U.K.

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