I think Denis Villeneuve is arguably the greatest young director working in Hollywood right now. For many who share my belief, that realization started with Prisoners, the French Canadian director’s big international breakout that earned massive critical acclaim and was a surprise box office hit. That 2013 Oscar-nominated thriller masterpiece was also the first pairing of Villeneuve with Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal who would go on to star in the director’s next film, the absolute mind-job thriller Enemy (which is weird as hell but still fantastic). And now the duo is completing their team-up trilogy as they’re set to work together again on the upcoming TV series The Son.
Deadline brings the word of the pair’s reunion on the HBO limited series which is being adapted from acclaimed Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø’s 2014 crime novel Sønnen. The pair will exec produce via Gyllenhaal’s production company Nine Stories with Gyllenhaal playing the lead role and Villeneuve directing the pilot. As if that wasn’t enough talent on board, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the powerhouse writer-producer husband and wife duo who created HBO’s brilliant Westworld, will act as co-showrunners alongside Billions and Ray Donovan writer/producer Lenore Zion. And in case you’re wondering, yes, Nolan is the younger brother of Christopher Nolan who co-wrote many of his sibling’s most acclaimed films, including Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar.
As for The Son, Nesbø’s original novel was a #1 New York Times bestseller and follows an escaped convict and opioid addict named Sonny Lofthus. Here’s the synopsis courtesy of Amazon:
Sonny Lofthus has been in prison for almost half his life: serving time for crimes he didn’t commit. In exchange, he gets an uninterrupted supply of heroin—and a stream of fellow prisoners seeking out his Buddha-like absolution. Years earlier Sonny’s father, a corrupt cop, took his own life rather than face exposure. Now Sonny is the center of a vortex of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest—all of them focused on keeping him stoned and jailed. When Sonny discovers a shocking truth about his father’s suicide, he makes a brilliant escape and begins hunting down the people responsible for his and his father’s demise. But he’s also being hunted, and by enemies too many to count. Two questions remain: who will get to him first, and what will he do when he’s cornered?
This sounds exactly up Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal’s alley with morally ambiguous characters out for revenge. Gyllenhaal reportedly optioned Nesbø’s novel back in 2016 already through Nine Stories, when he and production partner Riva Markey realized the potential in Sonny Lofthus to kick off a franchise. Gyllenhaal took the book to Villeneuve who finished it that same night, with the director giving an emphatic agreement to adapt it. The pair had been reportedly looking for another project to collaborate on for years and thought that this was a perfect choice. They initially attempted to adapt the book as a feature film, but eventually decided to rather do it as a limited series given how much narrative it had to get through. Marker approached Nolan who also jumped on board immediately after reading the novel, and he then helped to set it all up at HBO.
Besides for just giving more room to fit in all of the story, making The Son as a series may also be a good idea seeing as how the previous feature film adaptation of Nesbø’s work turned out. Despite being directed by Tomas Alfredson and boasting a star-studded cast led by Michael Fassbender as Nesbø’s beloved long-time literary hero Harry Hole, 2017’s The Snowman was an utter disaster. Thanks to a crazy rushed production schedule leading to 15-20% of the screenplay going unfilmed, co-star Val Kilmer still recovering from recent cancer therapy which left him unable to speak for most of his scenes, and a whole bunch of other production issues, The Snowman was an incomprehensible mess that got critically panned and bombed hard at the box office.
Let’s hope that level of bad luck doesn’t follow The Son. Based on the talent and track record of everybody involved here though, that is not only unlikely, but The Son has now become one of my most hotly anticipated productions. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on a prospective release date.
Last Updated: October 22, 2020