Tradecraft: Purefoy's Saint Series Dead?
Here's some truly disappointing news to start off the week. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Barry Levinson-directed revival of The Saint, which was set to star the perfectly-cast James Purefoy as Simon Templar, "didn't go forward." Apparently Purefoy is instead opting to star in a different show with a very similar premise, The Philanthropist. (It really could have been an ITC title in the late Sixties; I'm surprised they didn't think of it!) Says the trade, "Philanthropist centers on a renegade billionaire (Purefoy) who uses his wealth, connections and power to help people in need no matter the risks or costs." That's pretty much what Simon Templar does, the only real difference being that his wealth is ill-gained. The Reporter ends its report on The Philanthropist with this brief statement on The Saint: "Earlier this year, CAA-repped Purefoy was attached to The Saint, an independently produced two-hour backdoor pilot with Levinson on board to direct, but the project didn't go forward."
"Didn't go forward?" So what does that mean? Is the project dead? Will it still go forward in the future, but with another star? All LeslieCharteris.com (the premier site for Saintly information) can add at this point is that shooting on the pilot has been delayed until "at least August" because of a possible actors' strike. (Such a strike seems very unlikely at this point.)
Muddying the waters further is how incestuous this whole Saint/Purefoy/Philanthropist triangle really is. The original producers on The Philanthropist were Levinson and Tom Fontana, both of whom were also on The Saint! They've now been replaced, however, by Battlestar Gallactica and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys producer David Eick. So were Levinson and Fontana really developing such similar projects simultaneously? Or did The Saint somehow morph into The Philanthropist? That seems an unlikely scenario, given that the trade states The Philanthropist got a 13-episode order from NBC nearly a year ago. More likely, the shows aren't really as similar as they sound in loglines.
Whatever the tangled web behind the scenes, this story saddens me. As I was just saying earlier this month, I was really looking forward to this newest incarnation of The Saint--and primarily because of Purefoy's involvement. I hope that the matter is not yet said and done, and that we still might somehow see a James Purefoy Saint series sooner or later.