Here’s some news you weren’t expecting: Universal Pictures just called dibs on a new adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s The Secret Garden, written by Lucy Alibar and produced by Guillermo del Toro.
Lucy Alibar, is one of the cowriters of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and superficially Beasts, Secret Garden, and Pan’s Labyrinth are not dissimilar, all featuring independent, adventurous little girls whose stories largely take place in an isolated patch of wildness and in some cases magic surrounded by a more mundane, adult world. Even not superficially, they’re all stories about children dealing with the absence or loss of a parent and the fallout of having independence thrust on them earlier than they might be ready for it.
Even if The Secret Garden lacks any clear manifestations of the supernatural (though the book certainly had enough Biblical allusions), there’s a lot there for del Toro and Alibar to work with.
There is no word yet on who will direct the adaptation, but Deadline says “word around town” is that the movie will be reset in the American South around the year 1900, not a huge jump in time from the novel’s original setting, but a relocation that I could see bearing very interesting fruit. Considering the importance of the interaction between Mary Lennox and the various servants and servants families of Misselthwaite Manor to The Secret Garden, it would be a huge stretch for this version of the novel to not address race and class differences of that setting.