Sarah Michelle Gellar was one of the most successful TV actresses of the pre-millennial generation, conquering the Whedonverse with her seven season stint as the iconic Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Gellar supplemented her status as a household name with several film roles, the most memorable of which for many was her sultry turn as the manipulative Kathryn Merteuil in 1999’s Cruel Intentions.
The designer lives of New York rich kids playing dark games of seduction is still a potent concept for contemporary audiences – enough for NBC to commission a pilot for a possible TV adaptation of the film. On top of this tantalizing news, it has just been revealed that the network are set on wooing Gellar to reprise her original role.
Cruel Intentions is a film adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a French novel from 1782 by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The movie was written and directed by Roger Kumble (The Sweetest Thing) and starred Ryan Phillipe (Sebastian), Reese Witherspoon (Annette) and Selma Blair (Cecile) alongside Gellar. The proposed TV adaptation is set to reintroduce the story in current times, finding Kathryn contending for the family company Valmont International and seeking to control her late stepbrother’s son Bash Casey (through what is hinted to be a semi-sexual relationship). The plot will apparently add another tie to the original story with the device of Sebastian’s journals describing the film’s dark and sexy events. Casey comes into possession of the journals and is inspired by the content – opening up a world of possibilities for the series to explore similar themes, should the pilot be a success.
Kumble has signed up with NBC to direct and produce the pilot from a script he co-wrote with Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross, who recently attracted the director’s interest with their stage production The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of Cruel Intentions. Deadline reports that Gellar is currently reading the pilot’s script and considering the network’s proposal to reprise. The actress has ventured back into TV post-Buffy for the axed drama series Ringer and sitcom The Crazy Ones but is particular about her projects.
TV adaptations of celebrated movies has become a popular theme of late, with the teen genre offering reboots of Scream and Teen Wolf for MTV. Cruel Intentions performed well at the box office and featured some iconic scenes whilst exploring some pretty adult themes that are becoming more prevalent in the current climate of entertainment. This TV concept is interestingly both a sequel to and a reboot of the original film, which would evolve the material into a family saga with many possible facets. NBC’s decision to utilize the experience of the movie’s writer/director is reassuring, and securing Gellar would be an adept stroke in pleasing the original fan base and allowing a more natural evolution from film to TV.
Should Gellar decide to reprise her role, this adaptation would have many of the ingredients needed to replicate the film’s memorable style and bring the concept into a new era for both the characters and a new audience. Without her, the idea loses some authenticity, but Kumble has racked up a number of years writing and directing for TV since the movie’s debut, and so has the experience to guide this project. Hopefully he can do it with Gellar at his side.
We will keep you up to date with news of the Cruel Intentions pilot as it develops.