Academy Award®, BAFTA and Golden Globe® nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch is set to star in Gypsy Boy, the film adaptation based on Mikey Walsh’s best-selling memoirs, it was announced today by producers Dee Koppang O’Leary and Kevin Loader.
Morgan Matthews, the two-time BAFTA Award winning director whose first narrative feature was the highly acclaimed X+Y (aka A Brilliant Young Mind), is directing the feature film which is scheduled to start production in the summer of 2018.
Protagonist Pictures is handling worldwide sales on the project and is introducing it to buyers at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival.
The two autobiographies, ‘Gypsy Boy’ and its sequel ‘Gypsy Boy: On The Run’, chronicle Walsh’s experiences growing up in England’s Romany community in the ’80s and ’90s. The books were optioned and developed as a film by Koppang O’Leary of Bowery & Bond Films, who worked closely with Walsh, whom she met shortly after he left the Romany community. BBC Films then came on board to finance the project.
Award-winning playwright and screenwriter James Graham, who has two plays running in the West End this autumn previously collaborated with Matthews on X+Y, adapted Walsh’s books, a wildly entertaining and inspirational coming-of-age story, set within a fascinating culture and the oncoming cultural change that closes in on the world around them. Graham worked closely with Walsh to capture the essence of the novels in the script.
The first autobiography ‘Gypsy Boy’, was released in 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd and was a Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller in the UK, receiving critical acclaim across international publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Attitude, Heat and The Advocate. Walsh’s best-selling follow-up book, ‘Gypsy Boy: On The Run’, was published in 201l to similar critical success.
The notorious Walsh family was part of the last generation of the Romany Gypsy people, known for their ability to fight. The sport of boxing is embedded in the Gypsy tradition – to fight for one’s family name and honour and reap the glory of its success.
When young Mikey Walsh is born, father Frank (Cumberbatch) places a pair of golden gloves on a chain around his neck in the hope that his son will maintain the family’s reputation. But even as an infant, Frank notices there is something different in Mikey, which leads to frustration and anger building over time.
As he grows into his teens, Mikey is forced to make an agonising decision – to stay and keep fighting, and face the shame head on, or escape, never to come back…
Casting is currently underway to find a young actor to play Mikey opposite Cumberbatch.
“I’ve known Mikey since we were teenagers, and I was instantly fascinated by his life story, said Dee Koppang O’Leary. “Mikey and I have been developing this film together with BBC Films for the last few years. Mikey is an incredible writer and a wonderful living and breathing source of material – we can’t wait to tell his inspirational, sincere and heartfelt story. As my first feature film, I’m delighted to and very proud to help bring Gypsy Boy to life on the big screen.”
“I fell in love with this story as soon as I heard Mikey speaking about his childhood on the radio a few years ago. Mikey’s extraordinary life touches upon the universal subjects of identity, love, conflict, courage and sacrifice – set within a brutal and extreme yet paradoxically beautiful and intoxicating hidden world. I’m so excited to have Benedict on board – it’s a dream to be able to work with him,” said director Morgan Matthews.
“I was immediately drawn to Mikey’s courageous and heart-breaking story. And his father Frank is unlike any character I’ve played before. He’s a complex man torn between tradition and his love for a son struggling to come to terms with an identity that’s completely at odds with Frank and his culture. It’s a tension that threatens to tear everyone in their family and that community apart,” said Benedict Cumberbatch.
“We are thrilled to be working with Dee and Kevin on this extraordinary project. As huge fans of Morgan Matthews’ work, we couldn’t think of a more perfect filmmaker to bring Mikey Walsh’s powerful and compelling story to the big screen. With Benedict Cumberbatch attached to play Frank Walsh, this is an incredible array of talent and we are more than excited to introduce the project to buyers here in Toronto,” said Dave Bishop, CEO of Protagonist Pictures.
“This is the perfect team to bring a long-cherished project to the screen. We’re thrilled to be back in business with James Graham and Morgan Matthews following their collaboration on X+Y, and can’t wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch bring Frank Walsh to life,” said Joe Oppenheimer, Senior Commissioning Executive of BBC Films.090