Gillian Anderson is to star as a ‘sexually charged and alluring’ Miss Havisham in a radical television reworking of Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations.
The former X Files beauty is in talks to co-star in the three-part BBC1 drama which The Mail on Sunday can reveal will feature Hollywood hardman Ray Winstone as Magwitch and rising star Douglas Booth as Pip.
The BBC is planning what it calls the most ‘visceral’ adaptation of the novel yet in an effort to win over a generation of viewers unfamiliar with the original.
It will remain faithful to Dickens’s story, but key characters and situations will be redrawn to give them a ‘contemporary buzz’.
Sarah Phelps, the acclaimed writer behind the new version, said: ‘We wanted to look at the novel again with fresh eyes and make it relevant to a new generation.
‘We don’t want the audience to feel they are watching a drama about people in bonnets. At its heart it is a love story and a story of sexual revenge. It is also a complex, desperate, violent and visceral tale, which plays out under the shadow of a hangman’s noose.’
Great Expectations, one of Dickens’s most beloved books, charts the fortunes of Pip, a poor orphan, whose social prospects are transformed by the intervention of a mystery benefactor.
Escaped convict Magwitch befriends the young Pip after a chance encounter, and Miss Havisham, a jilted bride who has declared war on the male sex, decides to take Pip under her wing. Pip subsequently falls madly in love with Estella, Miss Havisham’s beautiful but cruel adopted daughter.
The new take on the novel, which will be broadcast over three nights at Christmas, will differ radically from the 50 or so previous TV and film adaptations, including the definitive 1946 version directed by David Lean, which starred John Mills as Pip and Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham, who is described as being in her 50s in the novel.
In the new version she will be in her early 40s and a far cry from the ‘witch-like waxwork’ described by Dickens.
Ms Phelps said: ‘I was keen to have a younger Miss Havisham. I wanted a woman in her 40s who has a sexual charge and who still has those fires that run deep. When people think of her in the novel, they think of a nutty old woman in a wedding dress covered in cobwebs.
‘But there has to be more to her than that, or why doesn’t a young boy like Pip just get frightened and run away? Our version of the character offers Pip something irresistible, awesome and inspiring.’
Both Winstone, 54, who shot to fame in the 1979 prison film Scum, and Booth, 19, who played Boy George in last year’s television biopic Worried About The Boy, have signed up for their roles.
Winstone’s Magwitch will be more brooding and less apologetic than in previous adaptations and Pip is to be portrayed as a sexually virile young man rather than a masochistic lovesick puppy.
Although Anderson, 42, is perhaps best known for playing Special Agent Dana Scully in the Nineties science-fiction series The X Files, she won great acclaim playing Lady Dedlock in the BBC’s 2005 adaptation of Dickens’s Bleak House.
She is one of several actresses in negotiation for the part of Miss Havisham and has yet to sign up, but insiders insist that she is the preferred choice.
Filming on the production is set to begin in July. A spokesman for the BBC confirmed the casting of Winstone and Booth but declined to say who was in the running to play Miss Havisham.