Oct 6, 2014

Tradecraft: Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston to Star in Le Carre Miniseries The Night Manager

This is super exciting news! John le Carré fans have been spoiled lately with some excellent movies based on the inimitable author's books, but in many ways miniseries remain the best possible medium for adapting such intricate, complex stories. (Smiley's People remains the finest le Carré adaptation to date, in my opinion.) And now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, there's a new le Carré miniseries in the offing! (Or "limited series," to use the preferred present-day parlance.) And its cast is shaping up to be top notch. Hugh Laurie (best known for House and Jeeves and Wooster, but no stranger to the world of spies having memorably guest starred on Spooks and penned the terrific espionage novel The Gunseller) and Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers, Only Lovers Left Alive) are set to star in The Night Manager.

The last time we heard anything about le Carré's 1993 novel The Night Manager being adapted, it was as a film being produced by Brad Pitt, and that was back in 2009. Apparently things have changed. The trade reports that the book is now being turned into a miniseries from Ink Factory (le Carré's sons' production company, responsible for the excellent recent films of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and A Most Wanted Man as well as the upcoming Our Kind of Traitor) in partnership with the BBC, whose long association with le Carré material includes the aforementioned Smiley's People, with Alec Guinness, and the original Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The producers are currently seeking a U.S. network to partner with them for a straight-to-series pickup, which shouldn't be too difficult with that star power. David Farr (whose spy credits include Hanna and Spooks) is writing. It's unclear how many episodes the miniseries will entail, but in the United States "limited series" have been getting pretty long lately (as many as ten episodes).

The Night Manager is the story of Jonathan Pine (presumably Hiddleston), a former soldier turned hotelier who ends up volunteering to become an undercover agent for a new branch of British Intelligence in an effort to get revenge for the death of a woman he loved in Cairo. Leonard Burr is the dogged intelligence officer with a background in enforcement who masterminds Pine's mission against Peer of the Realm arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper. Roper is the sort of upper-class Englishman completely devoid of morals for whom le Carré has always reserved a particular vitriol, and Hugh Laurie should have a blast playing him. (I'm assuming he'll be the snobbish Roper as opposed to the working class Burr.) It's a deceptively straightforward undercover story for le Carré, but there is still plenty of material for a miniseries. As Pine risks falling under the spell of his charming adversary (and his beautiful mistress), Burr must contend with overwhelming forces in the British and American Intelligence Community who would rather keep Roper in play, not so much for the chicken feed intelligence he sometimes throws their way, but because they're all becoming very rich off of his nefarious deals. The novel functions as somewhat of a companion piece to the author's 1977 Smiley novel The Honourable Schoolboy. During the Cold War, Smiley represented the forces of Pure Intelligence, who wanted to flip a high value asset and get him to work for the British, but he found himself outflanked by the short-sighted forces of Enforcement (in the form of the American DEA) who would prefer to make an arrest or eliminate the target than flip him. In le Carré's first post-Cold War novel, however, the world has changed. Now it's Leonard Burr who has the author's sympathies, as an Enforcement man who wants to punish the wrongdoer with the aid of the DEA when the now sinister forces of Pure Intelligence would prefer to keep him out of jail, no matter how unpleasant his business.

Hugh Laurie and John le Carré are a near perfect match. I can't wait to see this project come together!


Dylan said...

The Night Manager has always seemed like Le Carré’s most filmable novel.

Back when the book came out, I thought that Patrick Stewart would have done a great job as Roper. I think Hugh Laurie will be great, though.

Tanner said...

You're right; I could definitely see Patrick Stewart in that role too! I agree that Laurie will be great though.