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In today’s booming global market for TV drama, everything old is new again. Fueled by the seemingly insatiable hunger for high-end TV among international broadcasters, cable outlets and streaming platforms, producers are dusting off decades-old novels and films and turning them into limited series.
AMC and the BBC are adapting the John le Carre 1983 thriller The Little Drummer Girl as a six-part series featuring Michael Shannon and directed by Korean auteur Park Chan-wook (Oldboy). Italy’s 11 Marzo Film and Palomar, together with TMG in Germany, is rebooting Umberto Eco’s 1980 medieval crime drama The Name of the Rose as an eight-part series starring John Turturro and Rupert Everett. And George Clooney has teamed with Hulu on a six-episode adaptation of Joseph Heller’s seminal anti-war classic Catch-22.
The drive behind many of the new projects is frustration at movie adaptations of the novels in question. The Name of the Rose was turned into a hit film in 1986, but the majority of these books produced forgettable features. And the scope of a limited series makes it easier to attract top talent eager to commit to shorter shoots. Add to that the recent success of limited series — think HBO’s Big Little Lies or Ink Factory’s The Night Manager — and the market drive behind the book-to-series trend is clear.
“It’s almost unbelievable now, but when we put Night Manager together — all of four years ago — people said limited series were a backwater. They were hard to finance and hard to sell,” says Ink Factory co-CEO Simon Cornwell, producer of the new Drummer Girl. “AMC hadn’t done a limited series in a decade. Then along came True Detective, Night Manager and the Netflix and Amazon explosion, and the whole model changed.”
This story first appeared in the April 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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