Benedict Cumberbatch will star in “Gypsy Boy,” a big-screen adaptation of Mikey Walsh’s best-selling memoirs about growing up in the British Romany community and becoming a boxer.
Morgan Matthews, the two-time BAFTA Award-winning director whose first narrative feature was the highly acclaimed “X+Y” (a.k.a. “A Brilliant Young Mind”), will direct the feature, which is scheduled to start production in the summer of 2018.
Playwright and screenwriter James Graham, who has two plays in London’s West End this fall — “Ink” and “Labour of Love” — worked closely with Walsh on the screen adaptation.
Dee Koppang O’Leary (Netflix’s “The Crown”) and Kevin Loader (“My Cousin Rachel”) will produce.
Protagonist Pictures is handling worldwide sales on the project and is introducing it to buyers at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The two autobiographies, “Gypsy Boy” and its sequel “Gypsy Boy: On The Run,” chronicle Walsh’s experiences growing up in England’s Romany community in the 1980s and ’90s.
The books were optioned and developed as a film by Koppang O’Leary of Bowery & Bond Films, who worked closely with Walsh, whom she met shortly after he left the Romany community. BBC Films then came on board to finance the project.
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The notorious Walsh family was part of the last generation of the Romany Gypsy people, known for their ability to fight. The sport of boxing is embedded in the Gypsy tradition – to fight for one’s family name and honor and reap the glory of its success.
When young Mikey Walsh is born, father Frank (Cumberbatch) places a pair of golden gloves on a chain around his neck in the hope that his son will maintain the family’s reputation. But even as an infant, Frank notices there is something different in Mikey, which leads to frustration and anger building over time.
As he grows into his teens, Mikey is forced to make an agonising decision – to stay and keep fighting, and face the shame head on, or escape, never to come back…
Casting is currently underway to find a young actor to play Mikey opposite Cumberbatch.
“I was immediately drawn to Mikey’s courageous and heart-breaking story. And his father Frank is unlike any character I’ve played before,” said Cumberbatch, and Oscar nominee for 2015’s “The Imitation Game” who will appear on screen this year in both “Thor: Ragnarok” and “The Current War.”
“He’s a complex man torn between tradition and his love for a son struggling to come to terms with an identity that’s completely at odds with Frank and his culture,” the actor said. “It’s a tension that threatens to tear everyone in their family and that community apart.”