The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar: release date, cast, plot, trailer, interview and all about Wes Anderson's Road Dahl adaptation

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar on Netflix features Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role.
The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar on Netflix features Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar secured Netflix its only Oscar of the 2024 season. It's a short story written by the late British author Roald Dahl and published back in 1977 as the anthology book The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. Now, one of a host of new dramas being produced by Netflix that are based on Roald Dahl books and stories, this story is being brought to life, with Sherlock and The Power Of The Dog star Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lead character Henry Sugar. 

Netflix has made the famous story into a short 39-minute film with movie director Wes Anderson behind it. This isn’t the first time The French Dispatch director has adapted a Roald Dahl story, either. In 2009 he turned Fantastic Mr Fox into an Oscar-nominated feature film with George Clooney and Meryl Streep among the voice cast.

And for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar Wes has gathered together a top-notch supporting cast to work alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, with Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade and Dev Patel also starring. 

So here’s everything you need to know about the Netflix short film The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar release date

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar launched worldwide on Netflix on Wednesday September 27 2023, having had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival 2023 on Friday September 1. After its short film Oscar win in 2024, Netflix has re-released the film, as part of four Wes Anderson shorts The Swan, The Ratcatcher and Poison (see more below) which will become available on Friday March 15 2024.

Is there a trailer for The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar?

Yes Netflix has released a trailer for The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar which you can take a look at below..

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar plot

First published in 1977 as a short story, The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar tells the tale of wealthy gambler Henry Sugar a rich and idle bachelor who learns about a mysterious guru who can see without using his eyes. Henry seeks out this man and asks him about learning the secret meditation technique and thus acquiring the ability to see through a deck of playing cards in order to cheat at gambling. After successfully mastering his amazing psychic skill he ends up making a pile of cash on the blackjack tables in casinos around the world. 

As the film continues, there are intricate stories within the central tale, including the revelation of fortunes of Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley), the self-styled guru who can read without his eyes, and the story of Dr Chatterjee (Dev Patel), who decides to publish Khan’s story. Meanwhile, armed with his new superpower, Henry Sugar still keeps fleecing casinos around the world before deciding to put all his winnings to good use by opening up a string of orphanages. 

Henry Sugar hits the casinos to fleece them of piles of cash.

Henry Sugar hits the casinos to fleece them of piles of cash. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar cast — Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry 

Benedict Cumberbatch plays gambler Henry in The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar. The bachelor discovers a doctor’s report on a patient with the ability to see with his eyes closed, including downturned playing cards. Mastering the ability, Henry amasses a fortune cheating in casinos. 

* Benedict Cumberbatch has previously played Sherlock in the BBC adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective and also starred in The Imitation Game, 12 Years A Slave and the Avengers franchise, and has most recently been seen in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog in December 2021.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, with Ralph Fiennes.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, with Ralph Fiennes, who will be playing Roald Dahl. (Image credit: Netflix)

Benedict Cumberbatch starring in Western movie 'The Power Of The Dog' on Netflix.

Benedict Cumberbatch starred in Western movie The Power Of The Dog on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar cast — who else is starring

Slumdog Millionaire lead Dev Patel has also been signed up for the adaptation, alongside 78-year-old Gandhi actor Sir Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, aka of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise. Rupert Friend (Homeland, Anatomy Of A Scandal) and Richard Ayoade have also been signed up to star.

Roald Dahl is played by Ralph Fiennes
The famous author narrates the story of Henry Sugar from his writing studio, surrounded by chocolate, cigarettes, coffee and all-important pencils. He also appears in the story as a policement.

Imdad Khan is played by Sir Ben Kingsley
Imdad is a street magician, who claims to have learnt the art of seeing without his eyes from a mysterious yogi, who taught him how to look through thin objects like paper. 

Dr Chatterjee is played by Dev Patel
At a hospital in India, Dr Chatterjee confirms Imdad Khan’s power when the magician demonstrates his unique skill by temporarily glueing his eyes shut.

Richard Ayoade is played by Dr Marshall
Dr Marshall is Dr Chaterjee’s quirky fellow medic, who assists him in assessing the truth behind Khan’s ability to see without eyes.

Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley) with Richard Ayoade and Dev Patel.

Ben Kingsley as Imdad Khan (centre) with Dev Patel (Dr Chatterjee, on left) and Richard Ayoade (Dr Marshall, on right). (Image credit: Netflix)

Wes Anderson on The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar

Wes Anderson spoke (before the current US writers strike) about his ideas behind filming The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar.

"The story completely hooked me as a child," says Anderson, 54, whose film credits also include The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch. "I had of trying to adapt it almost 20 years ago when I was staying at Gipsy House, Dahl's family house in Buckinghamshire. But at the time I thought, I don’t know how to do this.

"Over the years the Dahl family kept the rights to the story set aside for me until I had finally had a moment of inspiration. 

"Benedict Cumberbatch was a key figure, and someone I’d been wanting to work with. And having Ralph play Dahl – that was something that made me kind of want to do it!’

"The way the transitions happen between parts and the way the story is told is all done with theatrical effects and sounds. I think I thought, let’s make this a sort of art movie!’ says Anderson. "Part of the thing for people who know Henry Sugar is that they’ve very likely tried to look through the back of a playing card, or stare at a candle flame to develop this power, to do the thing in the story. It's got that kind of hook!"

Behind the scenes and more on The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

On the 2024 Oscar win for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Wes Anderson says: “If I could have been there, I (along with Steven Rales) would have said “Thank you” to: the family of Roald Dahl, the team at Netflix, Benedict and Ralph and Ben Kingsley and Dev and Richard and Bob and Adam and Jeremy and John and Jim and Rich and Jim and Polly and more. And also I would have said: if i had not met Owen Wilson in a corridor at the University of Texas between classes when I was 18 years old, I would certainly not be receiving this award tonight — but unfortunately Steven and I are in Germany and we start shooting our new movie early tomorrow morning, so I did not actually receive the award or get a chance to say any of that.”

Wes Anderson was very excited to have the chance to retell a Road Dahl classic short story. “For years I wanted to do Henry Sugar,” Wes told IndieWire earlier this year. “They set this story aside for me because I was friends with them. Lindsay kind of handed the torch to Luke, Dahl’s grandson. So had this waiting for me. But I really couldn’t figure out the approach. I knew what I liked in the story was the writing of it, Dahl’s words. I couldn’t find the answer, and then suddenly I did. It’s not a feature film. It’s like 37 minutes or something. But by the time I was ready to do it, the Dahl family no longer had the rights at all. They had sold the whole deal to Netflix.”

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar author Roald Dahl?

'The Wonderful World Of Henry Sugar' author Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl (above) wrote The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar back in 1977.  (Image credit: Getty)

Born in 1916 in Llandaff, Wales, in 1916 Roald Dahl is a famous children's author who wrote more than 20 popular children’s books, including James And The Giant Peach, The Twits, Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Before he became a writer, Roald Dahl was also a pilot for the Royal Air Force and flew a Hawker Hurricane during World War II, later becoming a spy for MI6. He had five children with the American actress Patricia Neal and died in 1990, aged 74.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a tale from Roald Dahl's short story collection, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar And Six More, which include The Boy Who Talked with Animals and The Hitch-Hiker. 

The Swan, The Ratcatcher and Poison — three more of Roald Dahl's short stories by Wes Anderson are on Netflix in the same week... 

There are three more Wes Anderson short films based on famous Roald Dahl short stories, which launch on Netflix in the three days after The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Here's a brief guide to each...

The Swan is on Netflix from Thursday 28 September
This famous Roald Dahl tale for young adults follows a bird-loving young boy, Peter Watson (Asa Jennings), who’s ruthlessly pursued by violent bullies and dreams of a fantasy escape. But the tables turn when Peter’s tormentors shoot a nesting swan. Rupert Friend is the narrator, while Ralph Fiennes once again plays Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson directs (see main story opposite).

The Rat Catcher on Netflix from Friday 29 September
Ralph Fiennes stars as a professional rodent exterminator, who claims he can perform bizarre rat tricks, including pulling the creatures out of his pockets! Things take a slightly twisted turn, however, when the ratcatcher decides to kill a rat without using his arms or legs. The slightly gruesome Wes Anderson adaptation also stars Richard Ayoade and Rupert Friend.

Poison on Netflix from Saturday 30 September
This 17-minute Wes Anderson version of Poison, one of Roald Dahl’s classic short stories, tells of the misfortunes of Harry (Benedict Cumberbatch), who discovers a venomous snake asleep, not only in his bed but lying on his stomach, too! But is the snake actually just all in Harry’s mind? Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes also star.

Ben Kingsley starring in Poison.

Ben Kingsley starring in Poison. (Image credit: Netflix)

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.