Richard Ayoade to Direct and Star in George Saunders Film Adaptation

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Richard Ayoade will direct and star in a film adaptation of George Saunders’ story The Semplica Girl Diaries, Deadline reports. Ayoade, who rose to prominence on Britain’s indie sitcom circuit before making videos for the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend—and later directing the movies Submarine and The Double—will helm the production with co-star and producer Lydia Fox. Ben Stiller, Jesse Eisenberg, and Sally Hawkins are in early talks to feature, according to Deadline. Saunders himself adapated the story with Ayoade.

Saunders published The Semplica Girl Diaries in The New Yorker in 2012. It appeared in 2013’s Tenth of December: Stories, a collection that established the author as a household name. The New York Times Magazine published a story headlined, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year,” and his next book, the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, won the Booker Prize.

Not long earlier, Stiller had optioned and adapted Saunders’ story CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, but the film never came to be. Eisenberg is also a noted Saunders fan (as well as a New Yorker contributor). The most recent Saunders film adaptation, Spiderhead, starred Chris Hemsworth and was not critically lauded.

Ayoade’s full résumé includes videos for Arctic Monkeys’ “Fluorescent Adolescent,” “Crying Lightning,” and “Cornerstone” (as well as their Live at the Apollo concert film); Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”; and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll.” He and Lydia Fox last worked together on Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir films. Ayoade is set to star in Wes Anderson’s forthcoming adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.

A synopsis for the Semplica Girl Diaries adaptation, via Deadline, reads: “Family man Lloyd Turner (Ayoade) is facing up to his 40th birthday with the prospect of a new decade mouldering in debt and mediocrity. After attending yet another party hosted by the rich parents of his daughter’s friend, and in a bid to give his daughters the happiness he thinks they deserve, Lloyd and his wife Sarah (Fox) makes the financially crippling decision to invest in what has become the elite’s new favourite status symbol: a set of ‘Semplica Girls’ to decorate their front lawn. Yet when Lloyd’s youngest daughter, Ida, discovers what’s happening in her name, on her very own doorstep, she threatens to plunge her family into a chaos deeper than they’ve ever known….”

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