Arcadia to adapt Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook for the big screen

Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander

Australian production and distribution studio Arcadia has announced it has optioned best-seller Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook and Stephanie’s Journal for adaptation to the big screen.

In the style of box office hits The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Under the Tuscan Sun and Julie & Julia, the feature film is currently in development and will be written by esteemed Australian film and television writer Katherine Thomson, whose credits include the Amazon TV series A Place To Call Home, feature documentary Women He’s Undressed, directed by Gillian Armstrong, and  StudioCanal’s narrative feature Helena! currently in development.

Published by Penguin, the Tuscan Cookbook, by two of Australia’s most celebrated cooks and food writers, Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer, brings readers on a journey to the sunlit hills of Tuscany, where in 1997 they left Australia to run a cooking school in a villa outside of Siena. The Tuscan Cookbook records in detail their time in Italy, the dishes cooked, the places visited, the people who made it all happen and the guests who joined for the ride. In their cooking classes, Stephanie and Maggie discovered how to live in a place where the pleasures of the table are the key to daily life and share their experiences of how to cook and eat by the seasons in one of the world’s great food regions.

Arcadia has also taken the option to Stephanie’s Journal, Stephanie’s account of 1997, and what turned out to be a remarkable and eventful year. The Journal invites the reader on an intimate journey through the culinary year of Alexander, her personal account of a year of both difficulties and promise, which saw the opening of the Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, the closure of the celebrated restaurant, Stephanie’s, the impact of The Cook’s Companion, published a year earlier and the cooking schools in Tuscany with Maggie Beer.

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With 2022 marking the 25th anniversary of their trip to Italy, Stephanie and Maggie are excited to see their adventure together brought to life on screen.

Said Stephanie: “How astonishing to be asked if Arcadia could make a film about the adventure I shared with my dear friend Maggie Beer in Tuscany in 1997. I am very excited and cannot wait to see who will be asked to play each of us. It was the adventure of our lives. It deepened our friendship as we supported each other and convinced us all over again of the value of being with others who shared our enthusiasm for ripe and real flavours, in a country that daily reinforced the importance of eating well as an essential part of living well. There are some great untold stories to be told!”

Maggie added: “There are times of your life that are so wonderfully significant that you have to pinch yourself that it were even possible. I can’t believe it’s 25 years since our sojourn in Tuscany, when Stephanie and I embarked on this adventure. It gave us so much; that deep love of Italy and the confirmation of everything we had both always believed, taken to another level of seasonality where produce at the markets was perfectly ripe in that if it was local, it was more expensive as it was more perfect! Our friendship and support for each other was so incredibly special and life affirming. Re-reading Stephanie’s journal of that year brings every moment back to life in cinematic detail, so to think of it coming to the big screen is both exciting and just a bit scary too.”

The film will be produced by Lisa Shaunessy for Arcadia with Alexandra Burke on board as executive producer. With credits including Kodi Smit-McPhee sci-fi hit 2067 (RLJE/Netflix), Arcadia is coming off the SXSW Midnighters’ opener Sissy, starring Aisha Dee, acquired by Shudder ahead of its SXSW World Premiere, and is in production on sci-fi thriller In Vitro starring Succession’s Ashley Zukerman.

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“The story behind the Tuscan Cookbook captured my imagination many years ago and now the timing felt right, bringing on Katherine Thomson and collaborating with Stephanie and Maggie,” says executive producer and partner at Arcadia, Alexandra Burke.

“There is a wonderful story of friendship and adventure within the pages of the Tuscan Cookbook. It also struck me just how relevant their ideas on modern food production and preparation, indigenous rights, multiculturalism and gender equality are today. As beloved icons, Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander have made significant impacts and contributions to Australian life, in a similar way Julia Child revolutionised the home kitchen in America. And this story, set in a particularly transformative moment in their lives, will inspire and entertain audiences here in Australia and around the world.”

Katherine Thomson said: “As most women know, to have a best friend is a great blessing and if they share your passion and inspire you, then you’ve really lucked out. Stephanie and Maggie first shared their friendship with the world through the books, now they’re allowing me to expand on the narrative and into a movie – a big leap for them, and how fortunate am I. The Tuscan Cookbook and Stephanie’s Journal are both incredibly rich source materials but there’s no beating the yarns I’ve been privileged to have and will continue to have as together we dive back to their 1997 selves. The ingredients are all there: two very different, hugely successful, creative, and generous women friends in their 50s, who make a promise the year before that they vow to keep: to take a much needed ‘break’ and set up a cooking school in Tuscany (from scratch I might add). But they’ve changed in the year since the decision was made and little do they know that even more fundamental transformation is on its way.  Add the fallen gentry landlady, the guests with their own needs who reflect and challenge our girls; the gorgeous cooking and dining, Tuscany itself and the problems brewing back home in Australia and the narrative begins to take shape. Andiamo!”

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