The Luminaries set for TV mini-series

By Nicholas McBride, Laura Mills of the Greymouth Star -
New Zealand novelist Eleanor Catton. Photo / Sarah Ivey
New Zealand novelist Eleanor Catton. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The producer of a hit BBC show sold all over the world is preparing to turn the Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries - set in 1866 Hokitika - into a TV mini-series.

Author Eleanor Catton, who is due to visit Hokitika next month, revealed yesterday she had insisted the production be filmed in New Zealand.

She plans to bring screen producer Andrew Woodhead to the West Coast, and in particular Hokitika, where the goldrush murder-mystery novel is set.

Mr Woodhead's online profile includes TV shows Law and Order (UK), smash BBC hit Spooks, and Sinbad. Spooks was broadcast around the world.

Catton told the Greymouth Star today she could not have foreseen how far her book would go: "It has just continued to be surprising."

She signed on to have her book turned into a television series in August, even before it was short-listed for the international literary prize. She said the deal was not dependent on her winning.

Catton subsequently met with Mr Woodhead and said they shared a similar appreciation of art and literature.

"One of the reasons I was really excited about working with Andrew was we had met in London and it seemed like his heart was in the right place."

She did not want to adapt the book for a screenplay herself as she felt it needed a fresh look.

Catton said she was a fan of box sets of television shows and that was a drawcard, rather than a Hollywood movie adaptation.

"That was one of the big attractions of making a piece of television ... longer story arcs and time to develop the characters. I was really keen for that."

She did not expect the show to be completed any time soon, as it still needed a screen writer, then a director.

She was unsure what control she would have over film locations, but said the West Coast would lend itself well.

"The thing about the West Coast is there are so many stretches that are untouched. To create a 19th century location on the West Coast wouldn't be hard."

Heritage Hokitika chairman Bernie Preston said a TV series should really put Hokitika on the map.

"It (the book) throws a real spot of light on our goldrush history. I hope it goes ahead and is a success."

Hokitika Museum has already been catering for increasing numbers of fans of The Luminaries looking out for features mentioned in the 832-page book.

Museum director Julia Bradshaw said that with all the historic buildings gone, they were finding other ways to help tourists.

"We show them photographs, so they can see what the town was like at the time. That's what people want, help with their imagination."

Although the buildings were gone, the beach, river and mountains remained.

"Those things don't change," Ms Bradshaw said.

- The Greymouth Star

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