Fans of bleak metafiction rejoice! Johan Renck, the Emmy-winning director of the hit HBO series Chernobyl, is in talks to adapt the bizarre 1965 cult novel The Magus by John Fowles. The miniseries is being produced by Neal Street Productions, who handled production duties on Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning film 1917. (Mendes is also one of the production house’s heads.)
Renck himself revealed the news in an Instagram post, featuring the novel’s trippy-as-all-hell cover art along with the caption “Something is brewing.”
Pippa Harris of Neal Street confirmed to Variety that Renck was indeed in talks to helm the miniseries, and that they “couldn’t think of anyone better” to adapt the popular novel. That’s high praise indeed, because The Magus is a particularly challenging story to translate to the screen. About a British schoolteacher teaching English in Greece who gets entangled with the mindgames of a mysterious old recluse, the book deals with unreliable narration and perspectives, meta-realities, and is widely open to interpretation. (At least, I think that’s what it’s about.) A film version was attempted once before, starring Michael Caine and Anthony Quinn, that was a critical disaster; Caine has gone on record saying that its one of the worst films of his career, and that’s coming from a man who gets thrown into a vat of oil by Steven Seagal at the end of On Deadly Ground.
Renck, a former singer-songwriter and music video director, has become a hot property after his massive critical success with Chernobyl, which won him a Directors Guild of America award as well as an Emmy. He’s currently attached to two other novel adaptations, Spacemen of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař and Girl A by Abigail Dean.