Wes Anderson Is Adapting a Roald Dahl Book About Buried Treasure That Ended Up in the British Museum for Netflix

The film, based on Dahl's "Henry Sugar" story collection, stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

Wes Anderson attends the
Wes Anderson attends the "The French Dispatch" Italian preview photocall at Fondazione Prada on November 4, 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Lorenzo Palizzolo/Getty Images)

Filmmaker Wes Anderson has directed movies where famous paintings played a major role. Now, it appears he’s planning one about another kind of cultural artifact: buried treasure. The forthcoming Netflix film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is based on the Roald Dahl book The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.

Published in 1977, Henry Sugar is a collection of seven shorter works by Dahl, including a rare early nonfiction piece, originally published in the Saturday Evening Post magazine in 1946, that tells the amazing true story of the archaeological discovery of the Mildenhall Treasure.

A field worker named Gordon Butcher and his boss, Sidney Ford, unearthed the large hoard of 4th-century Roman silver tableware while ploughing a field in 1942. Ford claimed the treasure for himself, painstakingly cleaning and polishing the 34 platters, bowls, dishes, ladles, and spoons and using them at his own table—even though British law required the find be reported.

Authorities eventually learned of the treasure’s existence after an eagle-eyed visitor to Ford’s house with a penchant for antiquities noticed the spoons were unusually ornate. Ford and Butcher therefore received a mere fraction of the finders’ fee they would have otherwise been entitled to.

<em>The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More</em> by Roald Dahl. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

To this day, the hoard remains the most valuable discovery of Roman objects ever made in the U.K., both in terms of the high level of artistry in the pieces and the treasure’s total weight. It is now in the collection of the British Museum in London.

The only casting detail that has been released thus far is Cumberbatch as the titular Henry Sugar, a man who learns to see with his eyes closed, but struggles with how to best use this remarkable power. (That story is one of four fictional tales in the book, which also includes two autobiographical accounts.)

Cumberbatch will also play supporting parts in the other stories to help tie the film together, reports Variety—although it remains to be seen if all seven tales will be adapted for the screen. The project will likely feature three mini-films, sources told Deadline. Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Central detail of the Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasure, Roman Britain, 4th century, from the collection of the British Museum. A nonfiction Roald Dahl story about the treasure's 1946 discovery is part of a book being adapted by film director Wes Anderson. Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images.

Central detail of the Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasure, Roman Britain, 4th century, from the collection of the British Museum. A nonfiction Roald Dahl story about the treasure’s 1946 discovery is part of a book being adapted by film director Wes Anderson. Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images.

The very British cast will also include Dev Patel, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, and Rupert Friend.

The Netflix film is the first since the studio made a deal securing the rights to the British author’s complete catalogue last fall. (It had already paid a reported $1 billion for 16 Dahl works, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, now in the works as a series and musical, respectively.) Anderson previously adapted an animated version of Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009.


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