'Rashomon' TV Series Lands at HBO Max

Rashomon Still - Photofest - H 2018
Photofest

Nearly two years after announcing plans to adapt Akira Kurosawa's acclaimed film Rashomon as a TV series, the drama has found its home — and writers.

HBO Max is teaming with Amblin Television to develop the series inspired by the 1950 psychological thriller from the famed director and screenwriter. The Comey Rule's Billy Ray and Mudbound's Virgil Williams are teaming to pen the script for the series, which is currently in development.

The HBO Max offering will not be a direct adaptation. Rashomon will center on a grisly sexual assault and murder and the unraveling mystery as seen through multiple characters’ competing narratives. It will explore themes of the truth and subjective point of view in a modern setting. Each episode will detail the perceived truth of an individual character — putting each at the center of the story and telling the events surrounding the murder from their point of view.

Rashomon is best known for its plot device that involves characters providing contradictory versions of the same incident, helping to usher in a new style of storytelling. The feature also helped bring Japanese film onto a larger stage. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made.

"I am delighted to work with Amblin Partners and HBO Max to reimagine Rashomon for today’s audience. I am excited to see my dad’s vision through this inspirational story kept alive and made accessible to a new generation,” said Hisao Kurosawa.

Rashomon landed at Amblin TV in December 2018. Amblin Partners co-presidents Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey exec produce alongside Atmosphere Entertainment's Mark Canton (Power), Opus7 Entertainment's Leigh Ann Burton and David Hopwood (Immortals). Amblin senior vp TV development Todd Cohen will oversee development pf the project for the company alongside Falvey and Frank. Burton and Canton approached the Kurosawa family to create a new series inspired by the film; the former closed the deal.

“It takes a lot of hard work to make the stars align and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to create an original take on Rashomon – a masterpiece from a true genius of cinema – for new audiences, with the full support and blessing of the Kurosawa family,” said Canton. “Not only that, but to be doing so in partnership with my friends and colleagues at Amblin Television, as well as the brilliantly talented Billy Ray and Virgil Williams, is truly the convergence of hard work and good fortune that every producer hopes for.” Added Burton: “We are excited to work with Amblin Partners and our incredible writing team. Everyone involved understands the caliber and cache of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and his legacy."

The original plan for Rashomon was for each season of the potential series to focus on a singular event told from multiple points of view where each of the main characters provides a unique and different perspective of the event based on their specific and subjective point of view. Only by watching each of the episodes and seeing the differing POVs will the audience come away with the truth behind the mystery.

Rashomon becomes the latest TV foray for Amblin Television, the production company behind FX's late and great The Americans, Netflix breakout The Haunting of Hill House, The CW's Roswell, New Mexico, Apple's Amazing Stories, Hulu's Animaniacs revival and Showtime's long-gestating Halo. Rashomon will be the first series Amblin will finance as part of a change from its role as an indie producer.

"Truth has become increasingly fractured in this age of cable news and social media’s 'say it and it’s true' culture,” said Frank and Falvey. “Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece was not just a murder mystery; it was a revolution in storytelling, as cinema’s most impactful and influential early exploration of subjective points of view and flawed narration. Seventy years after the film’s release, the legacy of Rashomon is indisputable and its central themes more relevant than ever. Our series will honor the impact of the original work and explore the age-old concept of objective truth versus subjective perspective in our modern times."

Ray next has Showtime's The Comey Rule and counts features Captain Phillips, Richard Jewell, Shattered Glass and Terminator: Dark Fate among his credits. He earned an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay for Captain Phillips. He's repped by Lichter Grossman. Williams earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing Mudbound and counts Criminal Minds, 24 and ER among his credits. He's with Map Point Management and Hansen Jacobson.

“Our partnership on Rashomon is based on our mutual pledge to make every single episode, every scene, and every character of this show a loving homage to Kurosawa’s talent as an artist. That’s our true north,” Williams and Ray said in a joint statement Thursday.

Should Rashomon go to series at HBO Max, it would join a roster of originals that includes The Flight Attendant, Dune: the Sisterhood, Station Eleven, Tokyo Vice, Raised by Wolves, the new Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl as well as a growing slate of DC Comics fare.