HBO Cancels High-Profile Show After Star Suddenly Exits

HBO suddenly canceled The Days of Abandonment after Oscar-winner Natalie Portman left the project. The Days of Abandonment was set to be a made-for-TV film based on the novel by My Brilliant Friend author Elana Ferrante with Maggie Betts writing and directing. It was so close to coming to fruition that it had already received a $3.4 million grant from officials in Sydney, Australia to start filming there.

"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," HBO said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter Monday. "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."

HBO offered no further details about Portman's decision to leave the movie. She also had a behind-the-scenes role as an executive producer alongside her MountainA partner, Sophie Mas. Betts (Novitiate) was also an executive producer on the film. Other executive producers involved were Celine Rattray and Trudie Styler of Maven Screen Media; former HBO Films head Len Amato of Crash & Salvage; Ferrante; Domenico Procacci of Fandango; and Maria Zuckerman. HBO Films was producing with Medusa.

This would have been the second adaptation of The Days of Abandonment, following a 2005 Italian film. The story is about Tess (Portman), a woman who abandoned her dreams or a stable life, only to be abandoned by her husband. Her world is shaken by his decision, and the movie would have been the portrait of a woman in crisis. Rafe Spall was cast as Tess' husband. Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker was set to play a mysterious woman Tess meets and inspires her to explore her own psyche.

Portman has a first-look TV deal with Apple. She is signed to star in Lady in the Lake, a limited series adaptation of the Laura Lippman novel co-starring Lupita Nyong'o for Apply TV+. The Black Swan star will next be seen as Jane Foster in the Marvel movie Thor: Love and Thunder, which is scheduled to hit theaters in May 2022.

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HBO was likely interested in bringing another of Ferrante's works to the small screen after its success with My Brilliant Friend. The series, which is produced with the Italian network Rai, was renewed for a third season in April 2020. The show's second season aired between March and May 2020. Both seasons are available to stream on HBO Max.