HBO’s Martin Scorsese-produced period drama Boardwalk Empire series is about to embark upon its final season, but the network and legendary filmmaker have already begun developing multiple projects for the future. One such venture is a currently-untitled 1970s-set rock n roll drama that Mick Jagger is also backing, while another is titled Ashecliffe: a series inspired by the novel-turned film adaptation Shutter Island, which Scorsese directed.
Shutter Island, based on the novel by author/screenwriter Dennis Lehane, is a 1950s-set mystery/thriller that follows U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of a resident at Boston’s Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital – an institution for the criminally insane. Deadline is reporting that the Ashecliffe series takes place well before Scorsese’s film and Lehane’s book, and explores “the secrets and misdeeds perpetrated by [the] founders” of the eponymous hospital.
By the sound of it, Ashecliffe won’t really be a prequel series that lays the groundwork for Mr. Daniels’ predicament in Shutter Island; not in the same way that Bates Motel elaborates upon the history of Norman Bates from Psycho, for example. Then again, the ending to Shutter Island suggests that there isn’t any elaborate backstory to be revealed for Ashecliffe Hospital. Which is to say, much as Bates Motel uses its Psycho origins as a springboard for weaving a more complicated and intriguing mythology than most would’ve imagined, Ashecliffe may wind up being only tangentially related to the plot and characters featured in Lehane’s Shutter Island source material (as well as Scorsese’s film adaptation).
FX’s Fargo dramatic anthology series (during its first season) found a way to connect to the Coen Brothers’ film that inspired it, yet also function very much as a standalone world and narrative. Ashecliffe might go even further in the same direction – avoiding just about any discernible immediate connection to the events that transpire in Shutter Island, but while still continuing to explore similar themes and issues raised by that narrative. (Hence, it wouldn’t just be a Shutter Island series in name only.)
Lehane will be responsible for expanding his Shutter Island mythology by scripting the Ashecliffe pilot, which Scorsese is lined up to direct. Paramount TV head Amy Powell is also behind this project, as is Shutter Island film producer Brad Fisher and DiCaprio’s production banner, Appian Way, among other executive producers. Scorsese, of course, also helmed the Boardwalk Empire pilot and is set to do likewise with the pilot for the aforementioned ’70s music drama. However, it sounds as though Ashecliffe isn’t so far along in development to affect Scorsese’s commitment to begin filming Silence early next year for a late 2015 release.
Currently, Cinemax’s The Knick is examining the gruesome side of physical medical treatments in the early 20th century. Perhaps Ashecliffe will end up making for a strong companion piece to that Steven Soderbergh program, and provide an equally adept (and unsettling) examination of psychological care and practices around the same period of time. First, though, we’ll have to wait and see if the series makes it past the early stages of development.
We’ll bring you more information on Ashecliffe as it becomes available.