The Queen’s Gambit has been dominating the board, so to speak. Since its relatively inauspicious debut this October on Netflix, the limited series has grown via strong word-of-mouth to become one of the most talked-about shows of the year. Riding that wave of success, co-creator Scott Frank understandably has a slew of future projects in development, including a potential limited series adaptation of famed fictional detective Sam Spade starring none other than Clive Owen.
“I got the rights, through a couple wonderful producers, to the character of Sam Spade… They called me and said, ‘Would you ever want to do something with it?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t know what to do with Sam Spade. It feels a little retro to me, I don’t want to do it,’ and I hung up. The minute I hung up, I got an idea. I thought, wait, what if you do Sam Spade later in life, when he’s 60 years old? I thought, Let’s not have him be living in San Francisco anymore. He’s now an ex-pat living in the south of France…he’d gone over there to help some woman, who owned a winery, with a problem. He’d gone over professionally, fallen in love with her, she died of cancer, he inherited her winery, and now he’s living in Bozel, France. It’s 1963, the end of the Algerian War, so all these guys are coming back into the country and there’s all this sort of Muslim sociopolitical stuff happening. He’s in this little town, and the daughter of Sam Spade and [The Maltese Falcon character] Bridget O’Shaughnessy he has in a convent living nearby, and he doesn’t even know if it’s his daughter or not. It’s very complicated, but basically his past comes and finds him in this little town in the south of France.”
Frank is co-writing the pilot episode with Oz creator Tom Fantana, with a total of six episodes planned. For people unfamiliar with the character, Sam Spade is a private detective appearing in a novel and a series of stories by Dashiell Hammett, most notably The Maltese Falcon. Humphrey Bogart famously portrayed the character in John Huston’s adaptation, which also starred Mary Astor and Peter Lorre. He’s the quintessential hard-boiled detective, and the thought of Owen portraying an older version of Spade throws my hype train into overdrive. However, I’m honestly not wild about Frank’s idea – it sounds like the exact opposite world in which the character is meant to exist. However, Frank has exactly two more Oscar nominations for screenwriting than I do, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In addition to Sam Spade, Frank is also working on an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark, with The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy set to star. He’s also tackling an adaptation of The Sparrow, the 1996 science fiction novel by Mary Doria Russell that has been languishing in development hell for over a decade (Brad Pitt was once attached to the project), with Chernobyl director Johan Renck.