When screenwriter Michael Hirst says he is “passionate” about a new project, it’s worth taking note — especially if that project is Boris Pasternak’s classic novel Doctor Zhivago.

The creator of Emmy Award-winning series Vikings and The Tudors is in town with Foz Allan of Bryncoed Productions and distributor Wild Bunch TV to launch his adaptation of Pasternak’s epic novel about love and loss in the Russian Revolution. Produced by Hartswood Films in association with Bryncoed, the 8 x 52 mins series is executive produced by Beryl Vertue, Sue Vertue and Foz Allan.

Hirst said that, when Beryl Vertue told him she could get the TV rights to Doctor Zhivago, it was a “jackpot” moment. “It’s an eternal, immortal love story, but it’s by no stretch of the imagination a conventional love story,” he added. “Zhivago and Lara are soul mates and, in an ideal world, they would have had a happy life together. But they were caught up in catastrophic times and they, and their love, were doomed.”

For Hirst, Pasternak’s genius lies in his ability to capture those “moments of great emotion and intensity” that define lives and sear themselves into memory. This chimes with his own approach to his work: “I want to write about things that are real and have meaning and significance. And in that endeavour, I don’t recognise any difference between the past and the future. Doctor Zhivago has total resonance in our contemporary world, because it’s about how humans are destroyed by revolution and chaos and social disintegration, and those things haven’t gone away.”

As to who will play the lead roles, Foz Allan said it would be actors of “similar status and talent” to Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, who immortalised Zhivago and Lara in David Lean’s 1965 film. “But it will be an extraordinary challenge for any actor,” he acknowledged.

Hirst, however, is unfazed by the challenge ahead of him: “I genuinely hate to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve done two successful TV shows, one of which — Vikings — is in the top three shows just about everywhere in the world. So the fact that I’m passionate about Doctor Zhivago makes me feel we can probably create something extraordinary.”


This and more in the MIPTV News. 

About Author

Julian Newby is editor in chief of MIP Publications, namely the MIPTV/MIPCOM Previews, daily News magazines and supplements. He is also co-founder of Boutique Editions, a UK-based publishing and design house providing products and services for the international film, TV and creative communities.

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