Despite the fact that many geeks and tech experts consider Alan Turing to be the father of modern computer science, the brilliant mathematician and codebreaker has not yet had his life story told in a biopic. Thomas Jericho had his turn in the 2001 film Enigma, in which he was played by Dougray Scott, but now it’s time for a return to Enigma codebreaking with The Imitation Game, a story of how Turing rose to fame as one of the foremost codebreakers of World War II, and how his life ended tragically after being prosecuted for his relationship with another man.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Ron Howard were circling the project quite early on in its development, as actor and director respectively. Since then, however, Beneduict Cumberbatch has signed up to play the lead, and indie director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters) has been hired to direct it. Screenwriter Graham Moore reportedly sold the script, which is based on the biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma”, to Warner Bros. for a seven-figure sum, but it’s being shot for the modest budget of $15 million.
THR reports that Keira Knightley is currently in talks to star in The Imitation Game as, “a woman from a very conservative background who not only forms a complicated relationship with Turing but is there for him until the end.” Her being from a conservative background is particularly relevant in this biopic, as in 1952 Alan Turing was arrested and convicted for his homosexuality (which was illegal at the time). He submitted to a ‘treatment program’ of chemical castration rather than go to prison, and was barred from working for the government in his previous occupation as a cryptographic consultant. He died of cyanide poisoning two years later, and is widely considered to have committed suicide.
A significant amount of Knightley’s film career so far has been dedicated to period dramas (and yes, we’re counting Pirates of the Caribbean as a period drama). She recently played the lead role in Joe Wright’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, and was also one of the subjects of David Cronenberg’s biographical film about Sigmung Freud and Carl Jung, A Dangerous Method. She’s also worked with Cumberbatch before in another period drama, Atonement.
In 2009, after a petition that received thousands of signatures, Gordon Brown issued a posthumous government public apology to Turing for the way he was treated. The same year, a documentary short film called Decoding Alan Turing was released as a study of both Turing’s work and his personal life, including his legal persecution and death.
This won’t be the first time that Cumberbatch has played one of history’s most brilliant minds; in 2004 he played a young Stephen Hawking in a biopic of the scientist that examined his formative years, and he also played Vincent Van Gogh in a TV movie. Casting for The Imitation Game is off to a strong start, and this is likely to be a must-watch for computer geeks and Cumberbatch fans alike.
The Imitation Game doesn’t have a release date yet, but we’ll keep you updated on any further casting news.