It’s true what they say; you wait ages for a bus and then two turn up at once. On Tuesday, I wrote a blog about ABC’s potential re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera as a TV series, and on the same day, I saw another story about a Phantom series with different names attached. At first glance, I thought it must be about the same adaption and that I’d perhaps been mistaken in my information regarding the creative team behind it? Upon reading the news item fully however, I was surprised to realise that this was a completely separate project to the one I’d just written about.
Two different Phantom-esque TV series being developed simultaneously… what are the odds?
This second TV series is, like the other, a re-imagining of Gaston Leroux’s original 1909 novel, but that’s where the family resemblance ends. Tony Krantz is the writer behind the project, which he has been working on for over a year with Colin Callender of Playground Entertainment – the two collaborated on another adaption of a classic book with the NBC TV drama Dracula. His vision has kept the story in its original Paris setting but moved it forward slightly to the early 20th century instead, at ‘the dawn of the Jazz Age’. The events now take place in 1919, against a backdrop of the Paris Peace Conference, and surround the central character of a British World War I fighter pilot with burns covering half of his body who ‘finds himself at the centre of a string of murders that threatens to embroil the city’s gathered world leader.’ The opera house in Leroux’s novel has become an opera house that houses the hottest nightclub in Paris, headlined by a ‘Josephine Baker-esque’ American performer who ‘finds herself in the cross hairs of the serial killer.’
The project was originally developed at Alcon Television, after they commissioned Krantz to write it as a pilot. Krantz had also been working on separate projects with Endemol Studios however, and after reading his Phantom script, signed on to produce the series after Alcon Television stepped aside, although they still retain a small piece of the show. Following a substantial revision of the script, it was sent out to Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who quickly agreed to direct what will be his first TV project. Drew Comins, EVP of Flame Ventures, is set to serve as co-executive producer alongside Krantz, Jeunet and Callender.
Philippe Maigret, CEO of Endemol Studios, said of the TV project: “Phantom of the Opera is one of the most successful pieces of entertainment of all time that has been produced in multiple forms for fans across the globe. Our combination of exceptional creative talent, complex characters and a wonderfully re-told narrative, will produce a new canvas for a story that has crossed all borders and stood the test of time.”
Fan reaction to both projects have been a mixed bag of emotions, but opinions should perhaps be guided by Maigret’s above statement and the latter part of it in particular. Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera has been adapted many times into a variety of forms, with many spin-off books following the French author’s original novel along with an assortment of stage, film, television and radio versions, the most famous of which is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical production. The point to take from this is that every version of Phantom has been different from, not only Leroux’s story, but one another too. There’s little use in recreating the exact events as they happened and in the same period, setting, etc. At the heart of Phantom is a story about a disfigured man who is drawn to a beautiful and talented woman amidst a tangle of love and loss, secrets and lies, and of course, murder. There are countless interpretations to be found once the story is stripped back into its simplest form, and so it’s easy to then understand how someone could create something new that is different to Phantom as many know it, but which stays true to the essence of the beloved story.
Any adaption is always a gamble. Whether these pay off or not remains to be seen, but stubbornly waiting for one particular bus seems a pointless venture when there are more turning up – you first have to get on board before deciding whether it was worth going along for the ride.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 6th November 2014