Today's Hollywood Reporter has a lengthy cover story with more details on that new Saint TV series first reported late last year. In addition to confirming that James Purefoy is "in talks to topline as the debonair international thief Simon Templar," and that Jorge Zamacona will produce along with Roger Moore and his son Geoffrey, the new story also reveals some other key roles being cast, as well as some heavyweight behind-the-scenes additions. Most notably, Hollywood A-lister Barry Levinson will also produce (along with his Homicide partner Tom Fontana and Rome producer Bill Macdonald) and direct the two hour pilot! That's pretty impressive. While the presence of the Moores should hopefully guarantee a more faithful take on the character Roger so famously portrayed in the Sixties than the '97 movie with Val Kilmer did, the involvement of Fontana and Macdonald also lends this new Saint the credibility of two critically-acclaimed HBO series: Oz and Rome. (Fontana produced the former, Macdonald the latter, which co-starred Purefoy.)
The two-hour film will serve as a "backdoor pilot," a model the trade says worked recently for an NBC revival of Night Rider. It will be independently produced and then shopped to networks. Financing entity Nehst Studios is putting up the capital, and committed to funding "seasons to come," according to the trade.
The story also reveals that "casting is under way for the other key parts in the pilot: Inspector Claud Eustace Teal, the Interpol agent in charge of tracking Templar; Templar's romantic interest/assistant, Patricial Holm; and his enemy-turned-partner in crime, Baldwin Aleppo." This is particularly interesting as the presence of Holm indicates that the new series may well be more faithful to Leslie Charteris' original novels than any other adaptation to date. Holm was the Saint's regular on-again/off-again girlfriend throughout the first decade's worth of books, but has only ever appeared once on screen in 1943's The Saint Meets the Tiger, adapted from the first book, Meet the Tiger. Inspector Teal, the Saint's most relentless nemesis (and sometime ally), also comes from the novels and was played memorably by Ivor Dean on the Sixties series. I'm not sure about Aleppo. He could well come from the books, too, or might just be an original creation for this pilot.
Unlike the color installments of the Moore series, the new one looks to make use of actual locations around the world rather than relying on backlots. The article says "shooting is expected to begin in April in Budapest, Hungary, New York and Puerto Rico."
Finally, the Reporter's story also reveals some previous attempts at reviving The Saint that I had been unaware of. For those who enjoy such trivia, the trade claims that, "in 2000, UPN teamed with [Thomas Crown Affair] director John McTiernan and ATG, while ABC took a stab at the franchise in 2004 with writer Stephen Nathan and American Idol producer FremantleMedia North America." Unlike those versions, this new one looks very much like it will actually happen, and I, for one, can barely contain my excitement!