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This story reminds me of something funny I saw Sam Mendes say on TV once, but we’ll have to build up to that, I’m afraid.

It seems that Sam Mendes has recruited screenwriter, and sometime director, Christopher Hampton to adapt Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland into a script for him. The rights to the novel are held by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo films and they have spent much of this year pursuing Mendes for the director’s chair and then helping him set the project up. Hampton’s engagement is brand new, with him agreeing to take the job within just the last few days.

This info all comes from Sunday’s Observer newspaper here in the UK, and is now online.

The novel Netherland recounts stories of an ex-pat Dutchman in New York who forms a cricket club with a series of immigrants in the aftermath of the events of September 11. Hugely acclaimed – and I mean hugely – fans of the book probably won’t allow an easy ride for Hampton here, or for that matter Mendes. The arcane nature of the sport in question might also ensure that this one of the least accessible sports films in recent years no matter who is in charge.

I’m sure I know a little of why Mendes chose the project, however. I can remember from around 2000, an episode of the UK arts and culture TV programme The South Bank sShow that focused on Mendes. He related an anecdote explaining the exact moment he decided to become a director. It came when he was captaining the cricket team – I believe at Magdalen College here in Oxford. Such a thrill was it telling these people what to do, he said, that he therefore saw the appeal of becoming a director and bossing people around on that front too. So, whenever I see a Sam Mendes film, I just can’t forget that confession and with a film about cricket, it’s bound to come to mind even more often.

Hampton’s success with literary adaptations is notweorthy with the majority of his resume being made up of them, and the majority of those being well liked or generously rewarded in awards season. I’m sure it was a relatively simple choice to select him for this gig.

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