Guillermo del Toro Plots 'A Killing on Carnival Row' as Amazon Series (Exclusive)

Legendary and Amazon Studios are developing the show 'Carnival Row'
Guillermo del Toro  AP Images/Invision

Guillermo del Toro is returning to A Killing on Carnival Row. The long-in-the-works fantasy project, however, will no longer be a feature but is in development as a television series to be called Carnival Row.

Legendary acquired the script this past year for del Toro and will develop Carnival Row with Amazon Studios.

Del Toro will co-write a pilot version of the feature script with Travis Beacham (who wrote the script for del Toro’s Pacific Rim) and Rene Echevarria. He will direct the pilot, most likely this spring, before he begins work on his next feature film (he’s in post on his Gothic horror movie Crimson Peak, with Pacific Rim 2 due to be his next film).

Del Toro and Gary Ungar will exec produce the series, as they do with FX’s The Strain.

Beacham, who wrote Carnival Row as a newbie writer in 2005, also will executive produce along with del Toro and Echevarria. Echevarria, who is a veteran in the genre television space with writer and producer credits ranging from Star Trek: The Next Generation to Castle and Terra Nova (he also co-created The 4400), will serve as showrunner partner. (Del Toro and Lost’s Carlton Cuse both oversee FX’s The Strain, which is heading into its second season.)

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Carnival Row is one of those Hollywood projects that have grown into fabled what-ifs. New Line picked up the script, considered wildly original at the time, preemptively in 2005 with del Toro quickly becoming attached. After several years in development, however, he left for other passions. Neil Jordan also was attached to direct but eventually the project was shed from the studio as it merged more fully with Warner Bros. The project’s last major breath of life was in 2011 when Tarsem Singh became attached, although no studio was willing to take a risk on it.

The story is set in a noir, Victorian-tinged city where humans, fairies and other creatures co-exist. The original script told of a detective investigating a serial killer who is preying on mystical creatures, only to find that he has become the prime suspect in the murders.

Since the script’s inception, the TV landscape has changed considerably, with fantasy now a coveted genre and filmmakers now going the TV route for a road to prestige and a way to sidestep more risk-averse studios. By going the TV route, Carnival Row also has a chance to expand its world and offer more story directions.

“We tried to do it for so long as a film that the rights reverted back to Travis as a basic story,” del Toro told THR. “And I’ve always talked about it to anyone that would listen.”

After the Strain, Legendary’s Thomas Tull came to del Toro and asked whether he would be willing to explore it as a series. Del Toro jumped at the chance.

“We always had too many ideas to fit into the feature,” he said. “We can now really focus on the world and the politics of what it is to be a magical being in a Victorian steampunk atmosphere where you are seen as a lesser being.”

For Amazon’s part, the streaming service continues to push into pricey genre fare. The del Toro project comes just days after Amazon canceled its series order for Chris Carter’s The After, which is said to have taken The X-Files creator by surprise. The streamer’s most recent pilot slate features more ambitious genre and period fare, marking a heavy financial investment in its original programming growth. Amazon’s originals include critical darling Transparent, Alpha House and Mozart in the Jungle.

Legendary has become the de facto home for del Toro, with several of his past movies having been produced and financed by the company, including Pacific Rim and the upcoming Crimson Peak. The latter stars Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, and is due to open Oct. 16.

Del Toro is no stranger to TV as he is in production on season two of his vampire TV series The Strain, which returns to FX in July. (He is only exec producing the show and not directing episodes.) He is is repped at WME, Exile and Hirsch Wallerstein.

Beacham most recently wrote Fox’s ambitious ancient Egypt drama Hieroglyph, which was picked up straight to series but canceled before its premiere. His credits include Clash of the Titans. He’s repped by WME, Anonymous Content and Hansen, Jacobson.

Echevarria is repped by WME and Jackoway Tyerman.

Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report.

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