Scarlett Johansson is set to become the latest movie star to make a move to TV after signing on for a mini-series based on American novelist Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country. The Avengers star has teamed up with bosses at Sony Pictures TV to executive produce an eight-episode series adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winner's 1913 novel.
The story follows the devious Undine Spragg, Johansson's character, who attempts to rise up New York City's high society ladder.
The mini-series will be crafted by Atonement screenwriter Christopher Hampton, who originally wrote a feature script adaptation of the book almost two decades ago, when Michelle Pfeiffer was on board to play Spragg.
The Custom of the Country will mark new mum Johansson's first major TV role.
The Brit was presented with the 2012 Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday (03Nov12) in honour of his glittering showbusiness career, which includes winning an Oscar for his 2001 film Gosford Park.
During the bash, Fellowes revealed his work has been heavily influenced by The Age of Innocence writer, telling the crowd, "It's a lesson I learned from Edith Wharton to use tolerance, wit and humour while wielding the rod."
The event, held at the Harvard Club of Boston, marked what would have been Wharton's 150th birthday and raised money to maintain her former home, The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Past recipients of the lifetime achievement award include moviemaker Martin Scorsese, who directed a film adaptation of The Age of Innocence, and philanthropist/socialite Brooke Astor.
Gillian Anderson is Lily Bart a woman of shaky means for who parties are business and the pursuit of marriage has become a constant vocation. She falls in love with Lawrence Seldon (Eric Stoltz) but quickly realizes she can't seriously consider him since he actually works for a living. Still her efforts to marry for money instead of love are so half-hearted that she sabotages her chances with a wealthy prig and continues her flirting gambling cigarette-smoking ways. This in turn puts her out of favor with her rich aunt and a tragic demise waits in the wings. Bribery extortion and character assassination rear their scandalous heads as the wrong men make improper plays for the desirable Lily. Intriguing as it may sound revealing letters that have been tossed into a fire are all that smolders in this film.
Leaving the realm of supernatural phenomenon ("X-Files") for the spookier world of Victorian society Gillian Anderson plays the ever so wronged but resolutely brave Lily. Anderson's self-righteousness and wretched desperation fail to endear her leaving her tragic long-suffering Lily somewhat remote. But it's Stoltz's opaque inert Lawrence who truly irritates. A once-likeable actor he has begun to play all his roles with a tad too much smugness. Sincere but utterly passive the character is annoyingly subdued. Laura Linney is refreshingly vital as the dangerous Bertha. Dan Aykroyd fails to impress as a villain in sheep's clothes and Eleanor Bron is a caricature of a stern sour aunt.
After seeing one too many Merchant Ivory films one might tire of the convention in which a woman of meager means falls for a poor working man while searching for a rich husband. And for those who haven't seen any you just might tire of it midway through Terence Davies' languid dour drama. Davies ("The Neon Bible " "Distant Voices Still Lives") doesn't do for Wharton what Martin Scorsese did in "Age of Innocence " namely bring her words to lively engaging life.