FANS WILL SEE A NEW ADAPTATION OF ONE OF HIS SPY NOVELS WHEN ‘THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL’ HITS TV SCREENS, AFTER THE SERIES SHOWCASED AT THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL EARLIER THIS MONTH
Atale of espionage and intrigue by Britain’s master spy novelist John le Carre is the latest TV series to grab the limelight usually reserved for movies. The series based on his 1983 novel “The Little Drummer Girl”, directed by South Korea’s Park Chan-Wook, will hit TVs in the next month, but it got a big screen world premiere this week at the London Film Festival.
It was the only TV production to earn a coveted slot at the two-week international showcase, and its inclusion is seen as a further sign of the format’s growing status within the world of cinema.
“The landscape has shifted completely in the past decade,” Alexander Skarsgard, the Golden Globe-winning actor who plays a lead role in the mini-series, said.
“It’s not like it used to be where TV actors want to graduate and move into features.
“It feels almost like the river’s lowing in the opposite direction now. A lot of amazing directors and writers gravitate towards television.”
Park, who won the top prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for “Oldboy”, directs all six episodes of the spy series in what is his TV debut.
Commissioned by the BBC and American pay-TV network AMC, “The Little Drummer Girl” is the latest Le Carre work adapted for television by this AngloAmerican partnership, which was behind hit TV series “The Night Manager”, crafted from the British author’s 1993 spy novel.
But Le Carre — the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell — warned that this follow-up, which will also be broadcast worldwide after netting various distribution deals in London, may struggle to match its predecessor’s broad appeal.
“It’s not a whizz-bang thing and it has a much more serious content in some ways,” he said at the premiere of “The Little Drummer Girl” on Oct. 14.
Set in the late 1970s, it follows a iery actress and idealist — played by English actress Florence Pugh — who is recruited by Skarsgard’s character to become a double agent.
She joins a counterterrorism unit iniltrating a cell carrying out bombings across Europe.
Pugh said she was drawn to the project for the “mindblowing” chance to work with Park.
She said that audiences increasingly appreciate quality TV because “you have time with these characters, you really get to love them.”
“It’s not over in an hour and a half. You are invested in these people,” Pugh added.
Cannes, the world’s most prestigious ilm festival, last year allowed TV series among its offerings for the irst time.
London has included small screen work in previous years, showing episodes of British sci-i anthology “Black Mirror” in 2016 and American crime drama “Mindhunter” last year.
Tricia Tuttle, artistic director of its 2018 showcase, said their inclusion stemmed from high-calibre TV remaining “very exciting” and attracting top ilmmakers.
“(They) are working in ways we often think of as more cinematic — with story, image, design and sound working intertextually, with real sophistication,” she said.
“This kind of work looks terriic on the big screen.
And festivals can provide audiences with that ‘one-ofa-kind’ collective cinematic experience of scale.”
Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon, who plays the head of the antiterrorism unit in “The Little Drummer Girl”, agreed TV allows storytelling details to be retained in a way often impossible in a 90-minute movie.
However, he added ilms still held a special appeal, allowing ilmmakers to be artistically adventurous.
“I think television can’t help but be a little bit more oriented towards mass consumption,” he said.
“There is the possibility in ilm to... take a bit more risk.”
The mini-series was made by the makers of Golden Globe-winning “The Night Manager”, with le Carre’s sons once again executive producers. The author described the story as “quite different”.
“The one thing you can’t do, you can’t be a one-trick pony, you can’t repeat it. We had a massive audience (for “The Night Manager”),” le Carre said at “The Little Drummer Girl” premiere at the BFI London Film Festival recently.
“This will be a different thing ... probably attract a smaller but a much more responsive audience in many ways. It’s not as accessible, it’s more thinking, it’s slower and I think more beautiful.”
“Lady Macbeth” actress Florence Pugh takes the role of Charlie in the series, which also stars “The Shape of Water” actor Michael Shannon and “Big Little Lies” star Alexander Skarsgard.
“She is someone so opinionated, so loud, so sure of herself,” Pugh said of Charlie. “I loved the fact that my character wasn’t necessarily from that (spy) world ... us as the audience, we watch her like we are her.”
Skarsgard plays intelligence agent Becker, who as part of the story’s spy plot also pretends to be a young Palestinian Charlie travels with across Europe.
“I hope people embrace this show as much as they did ‘The Night Manager’,” he said.
Author John le Carre