“Your instincts are wrong. Animals rely on instincts for their daily survival, but we are not beasts. We are not lions or sharks or vultures. We are civilized, and civilization only works if instincts are suppressed. So do your bit for society and ignore those dark desires inside you.” – The Abstainer’s Handbook (second edition), p. 54
The Radleys is seemingly an ordinary suburban family. They live at 17 Orchard Lane in the village of Bishopthorpe, Yorkshire. Peter Radley is an overworked general practitioner. His wife Helen is an amateur artist who paints apple trees in watercolor. Their marriage has got distant over the years. Peter and Helen have two teenage children who attend the local high school. Rowan, their 17 year old son, suffers from rashes and chronic insomnia and reads Lord Byron .Clara, their 15 year old daughter, has recently become a vegan with the hopes of having animals treat her better.
Despite their best efforts to live like the next family, The Radleys are perceived to be “a little odd” by their fellow villagers. The family has their curtains closed at all times. They love their meat almost raw but choke on garlic. The amount of factor 60 sunscreen Rowan uses on his skin is off the charts. Clara is extremely pale and fragile. The Radley children are called freaks and bullied at school.
Now, this “little odd” family has a huge secret: they are vampires! Only Peter and Helen know about it. The couple became abstainers, vampires who choose not to drink blood despite their natural cravings, when they decided to start a family and they agreed it was best to keep the truth from their children. But they are forced to share the secret with them after Clara has a very strange experience one evening. And as uncle Will, a practicing vampire with quite a hedonistic lifestyle, arrives in the village, nothing will be the same for the Radleys ever again.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we will find out the answer in a new supernatural black comedy adapted from Matt Haig’s Sunday Times and New York Times Bestseller The Radleys an directed by Euros Lyn. Damian is playing twin brothers Peter and Will Radley, and Kelly MacDonald is playing Peter’s wife Helen, the character that I think holds the book together. The production marks a reunion between Euros Lyn and Damian since they worked together on Dream Horse. And Damian playing a dual role in the movie makes The Radleys a double bill for us!
The cast also includes young actors Bo Bragason as Clara, Harry Bexandale as Rowan, and Jay Lycurgo as Evan Copeleigh. In the book, Clara is close friends with Eve Copeleigh, the new girl at school, who has recently moved to Bishopthorpe from Manchester with her dad after a sadness in their family. Rowan is desperately in love with Eve but is too insecure to approach her. It turns out that they have chosen to have the young Copeleigh as a guy in the movie. Shaun Parkes is playing Jared Copeleigh, Evan’s dad. The other notable characters in the book are the Felts – Radleys’ next door neighbors, yet another distant couple. Lorna Felt, who reminds me of Betty Draper in Mad Men, is the epitome of the bored suburban housewife, complete with her sad flirting with Peter who seems to enjoy it. Sophia Di Martino plays Lorna Felt in the movie, and Steven Waddington plays his oblivious husband Mark.
Talitha Stevenson has adapted the script for the big screen. The film is a Genesius Pictures production, produced by Debbie Gray with Damian Lewis as an executive producer through his Ginger Biscuit Entertainment. Cornerstone Media is handling the worldwide sales. They filmed the movie in London and Yorkshire in the summer of 2023 but unfortunately we have not seen any pictures from the set. The Radleys is expected to come to Sky Cinema later this year.
Julia Stuart, Director of Original Film at Sky comments:
“I’m very excited to watch Matt Haig’s The Radleys come alive on screen as it begins production with top British talent including Damian Lewis and Kelly Macdonald. Wickedly funny and darkly compelling, I’m so pleased to bring this film to Sky Cinema in 2024.”
Here is a little animated introduction to The Radleys by Simon & Schuster Books until we have the movie trailer in the months to come!
To be honest with you, I am not a big fan of the vampire genre. In fact, the only movie I walked out of in my whole life is a vampire movie! That said, I listened to the audio book (read by Toby Leonard Moore aka Bryan Connerty from Billions!) as well as read the paperback and I am happy to report that The Radleys is a brilliant book! Even if the vampire genre is not your cup of tea, certainly not mine, it is still very likely that you will enjoy the book and relate to the characters. The story is a fresh take on the vampire genre, and a very witty one at that! Matt Haig does what he always does and takes a dark, quirky take on family life. The book has depth and its dry humor is fantastic.
Peter and Helen Radley repress their dark desires as they try their best to give their two children a normal life. As they are trying so hard to fit into the village life, complete with their white picket fences and boring book clubs, they face middle class social issues like uncommunicative marriage, midlife crisis, bullying, fidelity and conformity. While these human aspects lie at the center of the book, Haig adds vampirism to the story as “blood addiction” so it represents any kind of addiction, drug, alcohol, and what have you, that can ruin a family. Vampirism brings pressure, extra vulnerability to the family and a lot of laughs to the reader.
If you are an avid reader, and I am, it is inevitable to notice that Matt Haig has adopted the last name of a major literary character for his vampire family. Boo Radley, a mysterious and reclusive man, lives on the same street with the Finch family in To Kill A Mockingbird. Boo is pictured as a creep by many characters in the book even though they never saw him. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Matt Haig reveals that he was inspired by Boo to name the vampire family:
“Yes, Boo, pale-faced, misunderstood suburban outsider, was definitely my inspiration, though I later discovered Radley means “of the red meadow,” which can have vampire connotations.”
The Radleys is is not the first movie in which we see Damian playing a dual role. He played Jonesy and Mr. Gray, the alien who possesses Jonesy, in Dreamcatcher, a 2003 sci-fi / horror movie based on Stephen King’s 2001 novel of the same name. While not Damian’s best movie, Dreamcatcher is entertaining in its own right. And it is so much fun that while Jonesy speaks with an American accent, when possessed by Mr. Gray, he speaks with a British accent 🙂
In the movie, Damian is playing twin brothers, Peter and Will, both living some extreme lives. Peter Radley, the abstainer, is your average suburban dad. He is an overworked village doctor. His marriage has seen better times, and he is going through a mid-life crisis. While he misses the good old days and cannot help getting excited about his patients’ blood tests, Peter is still trying hard to ignore his instincts, and live by the Abstainer’s Handbook, the self-help manual for abstaining vampires. Every chapter in the book starts with a puritanical quote from the Abstainer’s Handbook. I really hope they somehow integrate at least a couple of the quotes into the movie. They are hysterically funny!
Now, we have not been able to see any pictures from the set, but if I tried to choose a character that Damian played earlier that would be close to Peter Radley in appearance, I would go with Howard Davies in Dream Horse.
Uncle Will, on the other hand, is a practicing vampire. Certainly the top character in the book, Will is a bad boy. He is irresponsible, careless, and addicted to blood. Driven by his dark desires, Will has got utterly reckless in the last couple of years that he has been a liability for his fellow vampires. And it goes without saying Will has zero interest in fitting in when he arrives in Bishopthorpe in his old camper van!
And you know what? I think I have an idea about how Will looks like. Because I believe I met him last summer!!! 😀
When I caught up with Damian at his Rough Trade East in June, I had my question ready for him:
“So, Damian, the talk of the town is… THIS…”
I say, pointing to the tattoo on his chest…
“Is it real or is it a Will Radley tattoo?”
Damian’s first reaction:
“I was very drunk Saturday night…”
Then he laughs and says:
As my Twitter friend Anabel Stark rightly pointed out the tattoo seems to have been made to look old. So… hello, Will! Look at that, he does not only have tattoos, but also has a hickey on the neck…
…so, believe me, it is a miracle that I made it out of that photo booth alive!
I cannot wait to have The Radleys on the big screen. I know I will applaud, when I see 17 Orchard Lane on the screen, as hard as I did when I saw 4 Privet Drive at the movies 😀 Watch this space and damian-lewis.com for updates on The Radleys.