Hollywood is always on the lookout for the next high-profile book-to-screen adaptation that might yield the next The Revenant, Gone Girl, or even the upcoming The Girl on a Train. While it’s true that award-worthy films have predominantly been the ideal endpoint for many of these adaptations, in recent years television has demonstrated an ability to utilize its potential for greater breadth and depth as a way to lure distinguished and not-so distinguished literary adaptations away from the sliver screen. And now that the limited series is the term du jour amongst many in the television industry, it looks as though multiple networks are looking to secure a deal to turn Jonathan Franzen’s Purity into a limited series starring Daniel Craig.
The news is surprising for reasons beyond Craig’s involvement, as Franzen’s latest literary effort was only just published this past September, meaning the wheels on the adaptation were likely moving soon after the novel hit store shelves and quickly found its way onto the New York Times best seller’s list. Reportedly, the series is being shopped around at multiple networks, with Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and FX among the potential suitors for the project. All of the networks were supposedly sought out in the hope that one would agree to the 20-episode, direct-to-series order those behind the adaptation are currently seeking.
According to Variety, the production comes from prolific producer Scott Rudin, who has had his hands in everything from The Social Network to Zoolander and its recent sequel. This is familiar territory for Rudin, as he’s produced a number of book adaptations, like Wonder Boys, Bringing Out the Dead, Angela’s Ashes, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s Best Picture-winning adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men. While Rudin’s efforts have predominantly been in film, he has seen a shift to television as of late, most notably as a producer on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, The Newsroom.
In terms of Craig’s involvement, the news may only come as a surprise to those who were unaware the actor’s statements following his most recent outing as 007 in last November’s Spectre. Craig garnered a great deal of attention (negative and otherwise) for his comments regarding the role of James Bond and his future as the suave, globetrotting super spy. This would mark a shift for the actor who has reportedly been interested in doing more dramatic roles in line with what he would be doing in Purity.
Purity would mark an interesting shift for both Craig and Rudin, and it would certainly be a significant get for any of the networks reportedly involved in the bidding war, as the winning network would land a potentially prestigious series with recognizable names already attached. Furthermore, the book was a bestseller from an author who has himself developed a reputation for being newsworthy beyond his status as an acclaimed author – an element that likely made the adaptation even more desirable for Rudin, Craig, and the networks.
According to Deadline Rudin has tapped writer, director, and actor Todd Field (In the Bedroom) to adapt the series along with Franzen into what is being described as a dark comedy centering on a young woman named Pip who is drowning in student debt and eventually winds up being drawn into a narrative with two other main characters: a hacktivist named Andreas Wolf (Craig) and a dedicated American journalist named Tom Aberant. This would mark the first project from Field since the acclaimed 2006 film Little Children, itself an adaptation of the novel by The Leftovers author and series co-creator Tom Perrotta. That film demonstrated Field’s ability to handle dark, often funny material and still have it maintain a literary quality for those who were fans of the source material.
The last time Franzen’s name was attached to a potential series was in 2012, when Noah Baumbauch teamed with HBO to adapt the 2001 National Book Award-winning novel The Corrections. Baumbach’s series was to star Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Diane Wiest, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Greta Gerwig, and Rhys Ifans in a multi-generational story of a dysfunctional family. Although the pilot was produced, HBO ultimately passed on the series because, as Baumbach put it, it was “too complex” and “too expensive.”
It sounds as though Purity is garnering a great deal of attention from several networks and streaming services. Given Craig’s involvement, the current state of television, the response to the novel, and the acclaim generally heaped upon Franzen, there is a good chance this ambitious adaptation will actually see the light of day.
Screen Rant will have more details regarding Purity, as they are made available.