Benedict Cumberbatch brought a World War II story to life in The Imitation Game and will delve in the world of magic for Marvel’s the upcoming Doctor Strange. Now, he may take on both genres at once in the newly announced thriller, The War Magician.
According to Deadline, Cumberbatch is attached to star in the epic war tale, based on David Fisher’s book of the same name. The actor will play Jasper Maskelyne, the titular real-life British magician whose clever illusions reportedly helped the Allied forces fight the Nazis during World War II. Like the novel, the movie will follow as Maskelyne puts together a “dirty dozen”-type set of accomplices dubbed “The Magic Gang” to create tricks that concealed sites like the Alexandria harbor and Suez Canal to keep bombers from targeting them. The group also created fake tanks to give the illusion of troop movement, shielded machine gun nests, and disguised tanks as supply trucks.
Per Fisher’s book, these deceptions helped turn the tide of the war against General Rommel and his unstoppable forces in North Africa, leading up to the Battle of El Alamein. But it’s worth noting that while the book is reportedly based on true events, many critics have called the authenticity of Maskelyne’s story into question, as well as Fisher’s account of it.
Gary Whitta (Book of Eli) has signed on to pen the script for the developing adaptation. Meanwhile, Storyscape Entertainment’s Bob Cooper (Maudie) and Richard Saperstein (The Blob) will produce. As of now, no director has boarded the project.
This isn’t the first time that Maskelyne’s story has caught the eye of a top Hollywood actor. As Deadline reports, Tom Cruise was previously attached to play the illusionist in a feature film for Paramount, but the project never ended up coming to fruition.
For Cumberbatch, this is the second recent high-profile role that requires some sleight of hand on his part. The actor will play the titular character in next year’s Scott Derrickson-directed Doctor Strange. The movie will follow the brilliant surgeon who discovers the world of magic after a car accident leaves him unable to return to the medical profession. The discovery of the mystical arts ultimately earns him the “Sorcerer Supreme” moniker.
The War Magician would only be the latest project that Cumberbatch has added to his already jam-packed schedule. In addition to being busy filming Doctor Strange, the actor has a slew of films due out over the next year. He is set to in the biographical drama, Flying Horse, and will also play a (controversial) transgender model in Zoolander 2, both scheduled to premiere in 2016. He will also lend his voice to a character in the upcoming animated fantasy film, Magick (which is set to hit theaters sometime next year).
On Cumberbatch’s docket for 2017 (at least so far) is the release of Jungle Book: Origins and the historical drama, The Current War.
The War Magician is early on in the development process, with casting details and the directorial position still needing to be filled out. Should Cumberbatch officially sign on, it’ll likely be a while before we see it hit theaters, given his busy schedule.