‘The Illusionist’ Materializes At The CW
In the race to create TV shows based on existing brands, it’s difficult to predict what the Hollywood producers will reach for next. This time, it’s a barely remembered 2006 feature film called The Illusionist.
According to Deadline, The CW has placed “The Illusionist” into development as a one hour drama based on the film of the same name that was written and directed by Neil Burger with Ed Norton in the title role. The Illusionist film was itself based on Eisenheim the Illusionist, a short story written by Steven Millhauser.
The Illusionist movie took place in Vienna during the late 1800s as a magician named Eisenheim (Norton) attempted to win the heart of Duchess Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel) while competing with Austria’s Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) and evading the suspicions of Police Chief Inspector Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti).
For “The Illusionist” TV series, The CW is keeping the same timeframe but moving the story to New York while following “a renowned illusionist who returns home from a decade in prison to find his wife married to the ruthless crime boss who framed him.” From there, it’s pretty much The Count of Monte Cristo as the title character assumes a new identity as a rising star in the crime boss’ criminal organization while attempting to win back his wife.
“True Blood” veteran Mark Hudis is writing the pilot for “The illusionist” and the project is being produced by CBS TV Studios, Electus and Yari Film Group,
The puzzling thing about turning The Illusionist into a TV series is that the film was largely overshadowed by Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige came out later in 2006. There isn’t a huge fan following for the film and the proposed TV series jettisons most of the story that was featured in the movie, making it The Illusionist in name only.
Basically, The CW and the producers of this series are betting that the slight name recognition of the original film will give “The Illusionist” an edge over other projects that are attempting to get on TV. Only time will tell if that bet was correct.