Finally, some Ellroy related news! For months and months I’ve been eagerly awaiting any announcements regarding Ellroy’s long awaited, and yet unnamed, Perfidia sequel. But alas! Still no news….. However, for those craving all things Ellroy, there is some news. It was announced last month that American television network CBS, in conjunction with Lionsgate and New Regency, are set to develop Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential into a new series for television!
As happy as I am to hear news of any adaptation of Ellroy’s work, I have to admit I was a bit surprised by this one. Probably like many people, it is hard not to feel that the essence of Confidential was somewhat definitively captured by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgelend in their 1997 adaptation of the book. Starring the likes of Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger, Hanson’s film is a stylish, brutal and brilliantly executed, if not severely condensed, version of Ellroy’s novel. As such it is very difficult to see anybody improving on this film. It also seems odd to return to an already adapted text when there are so many other Ellroy novels that have yet to be seen on television or the big screen. I personally would love to see a serialization of a text like The Big Nowhere or even American Tabloid.
Of course, it is ludicrous to judge this yet unreleased series at this stage, or to compare it to Hanson’s film. Details on the show are sparse at this moment in time, but it seems like it will follow a different narrative thread to the novel’s previous intonation. Press releases have stated that the show will centre on the exploits of “three homicide detectives, a female reporter, and a Hollywood actress as they intersect while the detectives pursue a sadistic serial killer through the seedy underbelly of 1950’s Los Angeles“.
For fans of the novel, this precis is intriguing. Although the mention of ‘three homicide detectives’ suggests that the series will stick with the Exley/Vincennes/Bud White triad, the mention of a female reporter seems to suggest that the series might also deviate from the source material to some extent. The reference to a serial killer, whilst vague, is also fascinating. In regards to the original novel, this could either refer to Bud White’s investigation into a string of prostitute killings, or Raymond Dieterling’s crazed and sadistic son Douglas. It would certainly be exciting too see the whole ‘dream-a-dreamland’ sub plot of Ellroy’s novel played out in this series.
The good news is that there are certainly huge sections of Ellroy’s text still to be creatively mined, so its certainly possible to produce a series that is both true to the original novel yet different enough from Hanson’s film that it doesn’t feel like a straight regurgitation. Also, I have always felt that Ellroy’s novels would be better suited to serialization in a series format. There is just too much going on for them to work as 120 minute screenplays, which is why Hanson’s film was a such a remarkable triumph. Subsequent adaptations such as Brian De Palma’s disastrous The Black Dahlia (2006) are certainly testament to the difficulties of adapting an Ellroy novel….
Of course, having a good script will be important, but I also think that casting will be vital to the adaptation’s success. Will they choose to go for recognizable actors? Or will they cast relative unknowns? This will be a challenge, because these characters have certainly been immortalized by the excellent performances of the lead actors in Hanson’s adaptation.
Despite all the potential pitfalls of such an ambitious venture, on the whole I’m optimistic about the series. Who knows, if the show is a success, it might even lead straight into adaptations of the other texts in the L.A. Quartet. For now though, we’ll just have to wait and see!
Who would be your dream L.A. Confidential cast, or indeed, dream cast for any of Ellroy’s novels? Comments below!