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Scarlett Johansson takes up first major TV role in Edith Wharton adaptation

Scarlett Johansson will take up her first major television role. Photograph: Luca Teuchmann/WireImage

Scarlett Johansson is to star in a new period drama, marking her first major television role.

The Avengers and Lucy actor, 29, will appear in an eight-part adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel The Custom of the Country, Deadline Hollywood reports.

Johansson will also executive-produce the series, which is being adapted for the small screen by Christopher Hampton, writer of the screenplays for Atonement and Dangerous Liaisons.

Hampton first wrote a script for The Custom of the Country almost 20 years ago but it was never used, though it was later published in a 2002 collection of his screenplays.

The Custom of the Country follows ruthlessly ambitious midwestern girl Undine Spragg as she attempts to ascend to the top of New York City’s high society circles. Although lesser known than Wharton’s most famous novel The Age of Innocence, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has referred to the book as an inspiration for his hit ITV drama.

Sony Pictures TV will make the series, which is likely to run on a premium cable network in the US. There is no proposed date as yet.

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Wharton’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Age of Innocence, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, was released in cinemas in 1993. Her 1912 novel The Reef was adapted for screen in 1999, while a 2000 adaptation of her fifth novel The House of Mirth, starring Gillian Anderson, was released in 2000.

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