Park Chan-wook Adapting ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ TV Series

BBC and AMC are partnering for the six-hour series.
Chan Wook
By  · Published on November 7th, 2017

BBC and AMC are partnering for the six-hour series.

When people ask me to recommend some under-the-radar movie gems, Park Chan-wook is my go-to filmmaker. Many non-movie-nerds haven’t seen his most renowned film, Oldboy, and plenty of cinephiles haven’t watched his English language debut, Stoker, or last year’s dazzling The Handmaiden. Chan-wook applies his visual flair, and pulpy sensibilities to every genre he tackles to stunning effect. As someone who eagerly anticipates every Chan-wook film, news that he is making the leap to TV comes as bittersweet.

The Daily Mail is reporting that BBC TV and AMC are partnering on a six-hour series titled, The Little Drummer Girl, which is set to begin filming in early 2018. The series is based on John le Carre’s 1983 spy novel of the same name, about a young actor recruited by an Israeli spy chief to track down a Palestinian terrorist. Chan-wook is onboard to direct and Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) is rumored to star as the series’ lead.

Last year, the BBC found success adapting another le Carre novel, The Night Manager, and they have another series, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, set to air in the coming months, so it was only a matter of time before they returned to the le Carre well. Previous le Carre adaptations include The Tailor of Panama (2001), The Constant Gardener (2005), and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).

In 1984, George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) directed a 130-minute big screen adaption of The Little Drummer Girl. The film which starred Diane Keaton debuted to mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office. Spreading the source material out over six-episodes will allow Chan-wook to tell a meatier story.

Chan-wook is known for his visual flourishes and I’m excited to see how he leaves his signature on The Little Drummer Girl’s time period and exotic locations. Le Carre’s novel takes place during the late 70’s and early 80’s in London, Vienna, and Tel Aviv.

I’m fine with our most revered directors crossing over to television. After all, a TV series like Mr. Robot feels more cinematic than some films. I’m more bummed out when notable writer/directors adapt someone else’s source material. Even though I would rather see original stories from writer/directors, visionary filmmakers like Chan-wook know how to mold source material to fit their vision. Oldboy is based on a manga series and The Handmaiden (“Fingersmith”) and Thirst (“Thérèse Raquin”) are based on novels.

Here is the novel’s synopsis as listed on Amazon.

On holiday in Mykonos, Charlie wants only sunny days and a brief escape from England’s bourgeois dreariness. Then a handsome stranger lures the aspiring actress away from her pals–but his intentions are far from romantic. Joseph is an Israeli intelligence officer, and Charlie has been wooed to flush out the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of deadly bombings. Still uncertain of her own allegiances, she debuts in the role of a lifetime as a double agent in the “theatre of the real.”

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