The film was set to be an adaptation of Elena Farrante‘s novel of the same name. Portman signed on in April to star and also oversee the project as a executive producer. Clearly her involvement was the major reason HBO greenlit the film, as rarely do you see an actor drop out and a project instantly scrapped like this. HBO representatives gave this statement:
“Due to unforeseen personal reasons, Natalie Portman has stepped down from HBO Films’ Days of Abandonment prior to the start of filming. Unfortunately, the production will not move forward. We are very sorry we won’t be able to bring this beautiful story to the screen with our talented writer-director and cast. We send our sincere thanks to our cast, producers, and crew for all their passion and hard work.”
The novel tells the story of an Italian woman living in Turin whose husband abruptly leaves her after fifteen years together. Portman would have played Tess, who challenges the norms of womanhood and motherhood while having a profound internal crisis due to this major change in her life.
Maggie Betts (Novitiate) was set to direct with Rafe Spall and Mary Louise-Parker in supporting roles as Tess’ husband and friend, respectively. Portman’s production company MountainA, which she oversees alongside producing partner Sophia Mas, was producing the project with HBO Films and Maven Screen Media.
Portman signed a first-look deal with Apple back in March, but signed onto Days Of Abandonment in April, so everyone was aware of that deal prior to her involvement with HBO. With Apple, she will star in limited series Lady In The Lake alongside Lupita Nyong’o, adapted from Laura Lippman‘s novel of the same name.
Days Of Abandonment is Farrante’s most popular novel to be adapted into English, so it’s a shame this incarnation of the project is now dead. Perhaps somewhere down the line we’ll get more information regarding why Portman left and/or why HBO decided to scrap the film altogether. Fingers crossed the project can be revived in the future.