Keira Knightley pulls out of the TV adaptation of The Essex Serpent because of concerns over childcare during the pandemic…six weeks before filming was due to start

She was due to star in a glittering new costume drama, with filming starting in just a few weeks’ time.

But now Keira Knightley has pulled out of the TV adaptation of The Essex Serpent because of her concerns over childcare during the pandemic.

The 35-year-old’s sudden withdrawal from the multi-million-pound production means the lead role of Cora in the Gothic mystery must now be recast.

Tough decisions: Keira Knightley has pulled out of the TV adaptation of The Essex Serpent because of her concerns over childcare during the pandemic

Tough decisions: Keira Knightley has pulled out of the TV adaptation of The Essex Serpent because of her concerns over childcare during the pandemic

The Apple TV+ production had been scheduled to begin filming in six weeks. But the crew learned they were being stood down and the drama was being put on ‘hiatus’ after mother-of-two Miss Knightley told producers she would no longer be taking part.

Costume designers, make-up artists and directors were shocked to be told the news earlier this week.

Miss Knightley would have been likely to receive a six-figure salary for taking part in this drama, according to industry insiders.

Busy: The actress and her musician husband James Righton, 37, have two daughters, Edie, five, and Delilah, who was born in September last year

Busy: The actress and her musician husband James Righton, 37, have two daughters, Edie, five, and Delilah, who was born in September last year

Her representative told the Daily Mail she ‘had to unfortunately pull out’ of the project for ‘family reasons’. 

The actress and her musician husband James Righton, 37, have two daughters, Edie, five, and Delilah, who was born in September last year.

The spokesman said that because Covid cases were increasing in the UK – and additional lockdown and restriction rules are potentially being imposed – ‘there wasn’t a comfortable scenario for Keira that could be put in place for an extended period of childcare required for the four-and-a-half-month production’.

Stepping out: Miss Knightley – who was spotted wearing a mask near her north London home earlier this week – was also set to be an executive producer of The Essex Serpent

Stepping out: Miss Knightley – who was spotted wearing a mask near her north London home earlier this week – was also set to be an executive producer of The Essex Serpent

Miss Knightley – who was spotted wearing a mask near her north London home earlier this week – was also set to be an executive producer of The Essex Serpent.

Sources said that while the industry was sympathetic to the personal difficulties the pandemic has thrown up, the delayed start to filming will be a further blow to the show’s freelance staff who have already been hit hard by Covid-19.

Another industry insider said incredibly stringent safety measures have been put in place on film and TV production sets to minimise the virus’s spread.

The Essex Serpent is being made for Apple by See-Saw Films, the company which made The King’s Speech and BBC series Top Of The Lake.

The novel, set in 1893, follows Cora – a recent widow who is free from her abusive husband – as she moves to the Essex countryside with her son. She becomes interested in rumours about a mythical Essex serpent which is said to have returned to the area. The book was written by Sarah Perry and published in 2016.

Miss Knightley rose to fame as a teenager after starring in Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates Of The Caribbean. She later appeared in Atonement and The Imitation Game.

Good read: The novel, set in 1893, follows Cora – a recent widow who is free from her abusive husband – as she moves to the Essex countryside with her son

Good read: The novel, set in 1893, follows Cora – a recent widow who is free from her abusive husband – as she moves to the Essex countryside with her son

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