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TELEVISION UK / Canada

Andrew Haigh weighs anchor for the BBC and See-Saw Films series The North Water

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- Colin Farrell and Jack O’Connell lead this gritty seafaring adventure, which is Haigh’s second major TV project after HBO’s Looking

Andrew Haigh weighs anchor for the BBC and See-Saw Films series The North Water
Director Andrew Haigh

Acclaimed British writer-director Andrew Haigh (Lean on Pete [+see also:
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45 Years [+see also:
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Q&A: Andrew Haigh
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Weekend [+see also:
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) will adapt and direct the four-part limited series The North Water, based on the Man Booker-longlisted novel by Ian McGuire, and produced by the UK’s See-Saw Films for BBC Two.

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The series is scheduled for an autumn shoot, with the principal cast currently being locked down. This week, Jack O’Connell (Starred Up [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: David Mackenzie
film profile
]
Unbroken) joined the previously announced Colin Farrell (seen recently in The Lobster [+see also:
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trailer
Q&A: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile
]
and last year’s Widows [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Steve McQueen
film profile
]
) in the lead roles.

Taking place in the late 1850s, The North Water follows the story of Patrick Sumner (O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition setting off from Hull to the perilous climes of the Arctic. In his sailing party, he encounters harpooner Henry Drax (Farrell), an amoral and merciless killer. Fending off Drax’s influence, Sumner tries to cling onto his sanity, and seek redemption and survival in the Arctic wasteland. 

Moving from the horse-racing world of Lean on Pete to another animal-related tale, Haigh seems to be attempting a British spin on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Originally announced as five 60-minute episodes, the team is now producing three individual hours and one 90-minute finale.

Haigh himself says: “The novel by Ian McGuire is a darkly brilliant piece of work, propelled by a vision of the world that is both beautiful and brutal. It feels bracingly modern and is piercingly perceptive about the nature of what drives us all. I feel incredibly lucky to be given the chance to bring this story to the screen and very privileged to be doing so with the BBC.”

See-Saw Films (which has made similar auteur-driven TV, such as Top of the Lake and State of the Nation) is producing the project for broadcast on BBC Two. Kate Ogborn is producing alongside executive producers Jamie Laurenson and Hakan Kousetta, with Iain Canning and Emile Sherman for See-Saw, Niv Fichman for Canada’s Rhombus Media and Lucy Richer for the BBC.

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