Benedict Cumberbatch has landed a new film role as a Romany Gypsy bare-knuckle fighter.
The Oscar nominee, 41, has been cast in Gypsy Boy, the film adaptation of Mikey Walsh’s best-selling memoirs.
Autobiography Gypsy Boy and its sequel Gypsy Boy: On The Run chronicled Walsh’s experiences growing up and, knowing that he was gay, running away from the Romany community of champion bare-knuckle fighters in England in the 1980s and 1990s.
Cumberbatch will play Mikey’s father, Frank, who places a pair of golden gloves on a chain around his son’s neck when he is born in the hope that he will maintain the family’s fighting reputation.
Sherlock star Cumberbatch said: “I was immediately drawn to Mikey’s courageous and heart-breaking story. And his father Frank is unlike any character I’ve played before.
“He’s a complex man torn between tradition and his love for a son struggling to come to terms with an identity that’s completely at odds with Frank and his culture.
“It’s a tension that threatens to tear everyone in their family and that community apart.”
The filmmakers said in a statement: “The notorious Walsh family was part of the last generation of the Romany Gypsy people known for their ability to fight.
“The sport of boxing is embedded in the Gypsy tradition – to fight for one’s family name and honour and reap the glory of its success.”
Casting is currently under way to find a young actor to play Mikey opposite Cumberbatch.
Filmmaker Morgan Matthews will be directing the movie, financed by BBC Films.
“I fell in love with this story as soon as I heard Mikey speaking about his childhood on the radio a few years ago,” he said.
“Mikey’s extraordinary life touches upon the universal subjects of identity, love, conflict, courage and sacrifice – set within a brutal and extreme yet paradoxically beautiful and intoxicating hidden world. I’m so excited to have Benedict on board – it’s a dream to be able to work with him.”
Production on the film is due to start next summer.