Lesley Thorne runs the Film and TV Department at Aitken Alexander, which she founded in 2004. She became Managing Director of the company in 2017.
She began her career in publishing on the editorial side working first for Fourth Estate in the late 90s, then Viking and Hamish Hamilton. She joined Aitken Alexander in 1999 to assist Gillon Aitken and in 2004 began to focus on dramatic rights in the agency’s books, in all media including stage.
Successful screen adaptations include the hit ITV series Victoria which uses A.N. Wilson’s biography as its principal source, Andrew Haigh’s film of Willy Vlautin’s novel Lean on Pete (Curzon/A24), and Sky Atlantic/Showtime’s limited series adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s five Patrick Melrose novels.
Lesley also represents screenwriters, specialising in novelists writing for screen or screenwriters who create original ideas and a few writer/directors. Her client list includes Rebecca Frayn (Misbehaviour, Pathe); Clara Salaman whose series Déjà Vu is in development with Sky with Michael Fassbender attached; Justin Haythe (UK only) whose credits include Revolutionary Road (2008), The Lone Ranger (2013) and Red Sparrow (2018); and comedian Dom Joly best known for Trigger Happy. For a full list of her clients see here.
She continues to represent some publishing clients, including Willy Vlautin, Stav Sherez and Robert Wilson.
About her taste she says: “I’m very drawn to memoir, especially personal/family stories that give a unique take on history or challenge preconceptions. But I also like fiction or screenwriting that engages with family dynamics or identity themes. I like smart genre and high concept writing, but it has to be character-led. Originality is obviously important too. I want to feel surprised. I don’t respond well to good plotting with minimal character development. I’m always engaged by the characters and feel great drama has to come from that place. But I’m not bothered about liking characters – I just want to feel engaged or intrigued by them. Humour is important to me – so far, I represent two comedy screenwriters both of whom write warm comedy with a clever comedic plot hook and a touch of the absurd or awkward. I’m open to anything, but I have to feel the writing is stand-out/of a really high quality and that it’s original enough to impress the marketplace.”