1:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Great Gatsby' TV Series in the Works (Exclusive)
The Great Gatsby is coming to television.
A+E Studios and ITV Studios America are teaming with writer Michael Hirst for a big-budget TV series based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic novel. A network is not yet involved as the co-producers plan on shopping the series to premium cable and streaming outlets.
Envisioned as a closed-ended miniseries, for which Hirst (Elizabeth, The Tudors, Vikings) will pen the script and exec produce alongside Groundswell Productions' Michael London (Sideways, Milk). Fitzgerald's estate is also involved as Blake Hazard, a great-granddaughter of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and a trustee of the estate, will serve as a consulting producer.
Sources say A+E Studios has had the rights to the iconic novel for decades, dating back to the 2000 TV movie that starred Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway, Toby Stephens as Jay Gatsby and Mira Sorvino as Daisy. That telepic was a co-production with BBC and aired stateside on A&E. (The rights to the book, effective this year, are now open to the public domain.) The Hirst-led adaptation has been in the works for at least three years, dating back to when the Vikings creator had an overall deal with Barry Jossen's A+E Studios. The updated take was quietly in development last year at Apple before the tech giant changed course.
"I seem to have lived with Gatsby most of my life, reading it first as a schoolboy, later teaching it at Oxford in the 1970s then re-reading it periodically ever since," Hirst said. "As the critic Lionel Trilling once wrote: 'The Great Gatsby is still as fresh as when it first appeared, it has even gained in weight and relevance.' Today, as America seeks to reinvent itself once again, is the perfect moment to look with new eyes at this timeless story, to explore its famous and iconic characters through the modern lens of gender, race and sexual orientation. Fitzgerald's profoundly romantic vision does not prevent him examining and exposing the darker underbelly of the American experience, which is why the story speaks to both tragedy and hope, and why it continues to resonate today."
Hirst's Gatsby will explore New York's Black community in the 1920s as well as the musical subculture. Columbia University's William B. Ransford professor of English and comparative literature and African-American studies Farah Jasmine Griffin will also serve as a consultant on the series. She will work directly with Hazard and Hirst on the drama. Described as a reimagining, the series will dig deeper into the hidden lives of its characters through the modern lens of a fractured American dream while also capturing the full majesty of Fitzgerald's timeless vision.
"I have long dreamt of a more diverse, inclusive version of Gatsby that better reflects the America we live in, one that might allow us all to see ourselves in Scott's wildly romantic text," Hazard said. "Michael brings a deep reverence for Scott's work to the project, but also a fearlessness about bringing such an iconic story to life in an accessible and fresh way. I'm delighted to be a part of the project."
Hirst, for his part, has a long-standing relationship with A+E. He created Vikings, which served as History's first scripted series. He's also readying limited series The Plague Year for History. Hirst's Vikings sequel, Valhalla, moved from A+E/A&E to Netflix as an original series from MGM Television.
A+E Studios, under president Jossen, has evolved its focus from being an exclusive content supplier to sibling networks like History to being a seller to other platforms with series including ABC's David E. Kelley drama Big Sky. A+E will be the lead studio on Gatsby.
"There are few stories in the pantheon of American literature that transcend time like The Great Gatsby," Jossen said. "Along with our partners at ITV Studios America and Groundswell Productions, A+E Studios is privileged to bring this powerful, complex work to life under the watchful eye of the incomparable Michael Hirst and the blessing of Fitzgerald family member Blake Hazard. As evidenced by his series bible, Michael stays true to Fitzgerald’s novel while building on that legacy with a modern vision that will be more reflective of America both then and now, including an enhanced exploration of the female characters. We are currently searching for a director and are excited to bring this out to the market."
Gatsby has been adapted for the big screen multiple times, with takes in 1926 (toplined by Warner Baxter), 1949 (with Alan Ladd), 1974 (starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow) and in 2013 (with Leonardo DiCaprio).
Hirst is repped by WME, United Agents and Nelson Davis.