Cumberbatch’s new indie, SunnyMarch TV, is coproducing The Child in Time with another fledgling prodco, Pinewood Television, and Masterpiece, the drama commissioning arm of US pubcaster PBS.
Studiocanal, which has a 20% stake in SunnyMarch, has secured international sales rights.
The one-off also marks the first major commission Piers Wenger has made as controller of drama commissioning at UK pubcaster the BBC. He joined from rival terrestrial Channel 4 last year after Polly Hill moved to ITV.
In The Child in Time, Cumberbatch will star as a successful children’s books writer whose marriage is devastated by the loss of his child, before the passage of time brings back a sense of balance.
“I read the novel years ago and it stayed with me – profound, beautiful and very moving,” said Cumberbatch. “Only Ian McEwan could write about loss with such telling honesty.”
Stephen Butchard (The Last Kingdom) is adapting McEwan’s Whitbread Prize-winning novel, with Julian Farino (Entourage) directing.
Wenger and BBC director of content Charlotte Moore co-commissioned the 1x90mins drama, with Cumberbatch, SunnyMarch co-founders Adam Ackland and David Boulter; Pinewood creative director Helen Gregory, the BBC’s Lucy Richter; Butchard; and Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton executive producing. Grainne Marmion is producing.
PBS is also a buyer of Sherlock, which recently wrapped its fourth season.