Netflix has acquired distribution rights to U.K. historical drama The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Based on the book by the same name, the film has been a long time in the making, with a 2012 version originally promising Kate Winslet in the lead role and Kenneth Branagh directing. Now it's Downton Abbey star Lily James playing journalist Juliet Ashton, and Mike Newell at the helm.
The book by Mary Ann Shaffer (finished posthumously by her niece, Annie Barrows) was written as a series of letters, focusing on the correspondence between Ashton and members of a peculiarly-named book club on Guernsey Island in the aftermath of World War II. As a journalist who wrote humorous pieces to lighten the mood during the war, Ashton is now looking for a more substantial project, and decides to visit the group and pen a book about them.
The film will be released theatrically in the U.K. next month on Friday, April 20, but THR has announced that Netflix will pick up distribution for North America. The network will also stream The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to Latin America, Italy, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia.
While the quirky title will be enough to catch Netflix viewers' eyes as they scroll through the latest releases, seeing Lily James as star could help inspire them to actually view it. After her breakout role in Downton Abbey, the actress charmed audiences in the live-action Cinderella on the big screen alongside Game of Thrones star Richard Madden. James also landed roles in the critically-acclaimed Baby Driver and this year's Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Darkest Hour. She'll be joined in Guernsey by another Game of Thrones alum, Michiel Huisman, who TV fans may also recognize from Orphan Black and Nashville.
Newell has previously directed British gems like Enchanted April, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's clear he'll be able to capture Ashton's quirky humor and the collection of characters that make up the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. He also has the ability to balance that humor with affecting insight into the characters and some universal human truths. This latest endeavor sounds like the perfect film for him, and once its target audience discovers it on Netflix, it should do very well for the streaming service.
Netflix hasn't announced an official date yet, but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society should premiere sometime in 2018.