Charlie Heaton to star in new BB1 adaptation of The Elephant Man

The story of Joseph Merrick has been screened many times, most famously in the 1980 movie starring John Hurt

The BBC has announced a new adaptation of The Elephant Man, with Charlie Heaton in the lead role.

The story of Joseph Merrick has been screened many times, most famously with the 1980 movie starring John Hurt.

The new, two-part BBC1 drama will follow the “extraordinary life” of Joseph from his working class beginnings in Leicestershire and his time in 19th century workhouses, music halls and freak shows.

Charlie, best known for the Netflix drama Stranger Things, said he was “extremely excited and honoured” to land the part.

John Hurt
John Hurt famously starred as The Elephant Man (Ian West/PA)

“This is such a special role and a challenge for any actor. Joseph has such an incredible story and I can’t wait to go on this journey and bring him to life,” he said.

The adaptation will cover “the true events” of Joseph’s story, his “extreme courage, determination and human dignity despite challenges arising from his disability.”

Controller of BBC drama Piers Wenger said: “Neil McKay’s scripts, chronicling Joseph’s life in its entirety, will shed new light on this story bringing greater depth and humanity to it than ever before.

“Charlie Heaton promises to be extraordinary in the lead role and we are excited to be telling this powerful, resonant story on BBC1.”

Born in 1862, Joseph began to develop physical deformities to his skin, face, arms and feet at five years old.

Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper played the role on stage (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Seeking to escape a workhouse several years later, he found his way into a human oddities show in London where he was exhibited as The Elephant Man.

Dr Frederick Treves saw Joseph being exhibited in a shop and took him to the London Hospital where he lived until his death in 1890, aged 27.

The first performance of The Elephant Man was in a 1979 play written by Bernard Pomerance, while David Bowie, Mark Hamill, and most recently Bradley Cooper, in the West End, have taken on the role.

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