Saoirse Ronan And Gemma Arterton To Play Vampires In Neil Jordan’s Byzantium

Jane Eyre and Tamara Drewe screenwriter Moira Buffini has adapted her own stage play Byzantium into a movie script, and Neil Jordan has come on board to direct it.

This will be Jordan’s second vampire movie after Interview With the Vampire, and will sit nicely alongside his ghost picture High Spirits, his werewolf movie The Company of Wolves, his selkie drama Ondine and his upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which will feature more or less all of those at once and some other, nastier, things too.

Byzantium has been officially announced in Cannes this weekend, along with the first taste of casting information. The two lead roles will be filled by Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton.

In order to best reveal Ronan and Arterton’s characters without spilling too many spoilers, here’s the official plot blurb for Buffini’s original play. I think the film will likely open this up a touch:

Two young women arrive in a nameless British smalltown. Their names are not their own. They don’t declare their ages. Their relationship with each other is not clear. Are they sisters, as their assumed identities declare? Or are they mother and daughter? The eldest, Claire, takes a job in a pub. The youngest, Eleanor, goes to school.

During a truth exercise in her drama class, Eleanor confesses that she has been alive for over two hundred years and has survived by drinking human blood. Her classmates think she is utterly crazy and Mint, her teacher, puts her in touch with the school counsellor. She makes one friend, Frank, a boy who has been home educated and is as much of an oddity as Eleanor. He tries to get to the bottom of her vampire delusion, thinking it an epic and compelling psychosis. Why would anyone want to be undead?

Frank’s parents believe that Ella is an anorexic – why does she never eat? Eleanor has started to write her life story as a play. She describes Claire’s background as a prostitute in 19th century London and her own as a child in a private orphanage. Meanwhile, things are falling apart. People are disappearing. Are Eleanor and Claire vampires? Or are they troubled young women on the run?

Production is expected to start this October. I expect this means Graveyard has been postponed.