“Them that can walk, should walk. Them that can fly…” This Easter Sky1 takes you on a journey of hope and discovery with a sumptuous adaptation of David Almond’s Whitbread Children’s Award winning novel, SKELLIG.
SKELLIG features an all-star cast including Academy Award® nominee and BAFTA® winner Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk, Reservoir Dogs, Funny Games) in the title role, Academy Award® nominee Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men, Trainspotting), Bill Milner (Son Of Rambow, Is There Anybody There?) and BAFTA® nominee John Simm (Life On Mars, State Of Play). Navin Chowdry (Ny-Lon, Teachers), Alexander Armstrong (Mutual Friends, The Armstrong and Miller Show) and Edna Dore (Nil By Mouth, EastEnders) also star.
Dave (Simm) and Louise (Macdonald) are a young couple with a teenage son, Michael (Milner). Louise is heavily pregnant. They needed a bigger place, and they’ve found somewhere out of town, but it’s a real wreck. There’s a rickety old shed at the bottom of the garden. Dave reckons that’ll have to go.
Michael’s baby sister is born prematurely, and while she lies in an incubator with her parents at her side, Michael is left at home, lonely and uncertain, looking to explore. He befriends his neighbour Mina (Skye Bennett), a young girl with an enquiring mind and a love of nature. And then, he finds something in the shed. But SKELLIG is far more than he at first appears, and his presence will change Michael’s life, and the lives of his family, forever.
Author David Almond commented: “In any adaptation what happens is somebody takes your story and if they’re good, they show it back to you and you say, ‘Oh yes, that’s what I was writing about.’ They tell you something about your own work. It begins as your creation but then it’s recreated, it’s transfigured. When I heard Tim Roth was going to be playing SKELLIG it gave me a little frisson. I thought yes, perfect, perfect piece of casting…I just thought he looked fantastic, so great. He was talking about how it’s a very grubby, dirty reality that all this takes place in. And he looked perfect and he talked about being a tramp, but a tramp with wings -he grasped that duality right from the start.”
Screenwriter Irena Brignull added: “The book is very economical in its writing; it’s quite minimalist and very lyrical. I didn’t want to lose that. There is a danger when you play things out for real in a film; things that have lived in a reader’s imagination: they can become more ordinary. The book is extra-ordinary, so it was quite a delicate balance not to overplay this story.”
Tim Roth said: “The script was a very, very adult children’s film in a way. It didn’t patronise, it was dead on. It was really, really well written…It sort of reminded me a little of David Lean’s 1946 Great Expectations. It’s about something that scares you, but you end up loving.”
David Almond’s debut novel SKELLIG won the Carnegie Medal, the Whitbread and has been published in over 30 languages. The novels, stories, films and plays that followed have brought popular success, widespread critical acclaim and a string of international awards. Almond said: “SKELLIG came out of the blue, as I was walking along the street one day. As I began to write it down, it almost seemed to write itself.” Shortly after publication, it was turned into a radio play for BBC Radio 4. It became a stage play, first performed at London’s Young Vic, directed by Trevor Nunn and with David Threlfall in the title role. In 2008 it became an opera, with music by the American composer Tod Machover, and with Omar Ebrahim singing SKELLIG. Almond adds: “Each of these adaptations transfigures and recreates the mysterious tale that came to me as I walked along the street. In SKELLIG, Mina says, ‘There’s no end to evolution. We have to be ready to move forward. Maybe this is not how we are meant to be for ever.’ This thought applies to stories as well as to humans. Stories evolve and grow and develop different forms. On the page, they can look fixed, perfect, almost untouchable, but that’s an illusion. They have wings and they can fly.”
SKELLIG is now taught to Year 5 and 6 on the national curriculum and Sky1 are engaging children aged 7-14 with a competition to provide a creative response to the question ‘What is SKELLIG?’ The competition will be judged by David Almond himself. Director Annabel Jankel commented: “Nobody knows what Skellig is. That’s the position I’ve always taken. It’s ambiguous. I can’t answer it. David Almond can’t answer it. You can ask the question, but you just can’t get the answer. It says in the book that he’s ‘Something. Something like you.’” For further information on the school competition log on to www.sky1.co.uk/skelligcompetition/.
SKELLIG is Exec Produced by Elaine Pyke and Sarah Conroy from Sky, Linda James from the Wales Creative IP Fund and Michael Henry from Limelight. Nick Hirschkorn is producer with director Annabel Jankel. SKELLIG was adapted for the screen by Irena Brignull.
SKELLIG is a Feel Films / Taking A Line For A Walk Production for Sky1 in association with the Wales Creative IP Fund and Limelight.
SKELLIG will be broadcast on Sky1 and Sky1 HD over Easter.