Tradecraft: When Is A Saint Not A Saint?
What if Roger Moore had turned down The Saint, but gone on to star in The Baron instead? That's essentially the scenario happening with the might-have-been Saint, James Purefoy. Through no fault of the actor's, that project imploded (although Roger Moore says it's still going ahead in a different incarnation), but now he's starring in what sounds like a Saint imitator instead from one of the producers of his intended Saint series. (The Baron, you'll recall, was a Saint imitator from one of the producers of the Roger Moore series.) The new non-Saint is called The Philanthropist (even a resonant title!) and centers around what The Hollywood Reporter calls "a renegade billionaire (Purefoy) who uses his wealth, connections and power to help people in need." This renegade billionaire travels the globe to do his helping. So... he's basically Simon Templar, but instead of acquiring his wealth by stealing it, he just has it. So a slightly less cool version of The Saint instead of the real thing. (Maybe I'm being too hopeful. I suppose that description could also lend itself to something more akin to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition... but here's hoping not!)
The would-have-been Saint producer in question is Homicide: Life On the Street's Tom Fontana, who initially developed The Philanthropist for NBC with Barry Levinson (who was also involved in The Saint), then left to work on The Saint, and has now come back to The Philanthropist. (Levinson will not return.) Variety enlightens us: "According to reports at the time [he left], Fontana wanted to make a grittier, more authentic show, while NBC execs were looking for more escapism and wish fulfillment." Battlestar Gallictica producer David Eick stepped in to develop NBC's version (which, frankly, sounds like more fun to me), but now he's out with Fontana back in. Only the pilot has been shot so far, and Fontana and his team will rework the rest of the scripts. Meanwhile, the network has reduced their original order from thirteen episodes to eight. Unlike the original Saint, The Philanthropist is actually shooting around the world, in London, South Africa and the Chzech Republic. So, points for that!
Neve Campbell recently joined the cast as the wife of Purefoy's character's friend, who has "strong chemistry" with the titular billionaire as well.
The Hollywood Reporter adds that "during the filming of the pilot, Purefoy pulled a hamstring and is being evaluated by a doctor. His injury could lead to a delay in production."