The Illusionist and Westworld on Fast Track to Small Screen


Two popular movies, one steeped in the past and the other far into the future, are on the fast track to television, according to Deadline, with HBO’s star-studded “Westworld” given the thumbs up from investors for a series order while The CW develops 2006 hit The Illusionist into a series.

First up is the J.J. Abrams/Jonah Nolan-produced “Westworld,” which has already racked up an impressive cast since it was announced in August of ’13, featuring the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Miranda Otto and Jeffrey Wright. Apparently executives gave the idea of a full series order an enthusiastic thumbs up during yesterday’s Time Warner Investors Day.

Adapted by Nolan and co-writer Lisa Joy (“Burn Notice”) from Michael Chrichton’s 1973 sci-fi classic in which humanoid robots at a futuristic amusement park revolt, “Westworld” is also said to be in development for the big screen via Warner Bros. Whether that’s through a big transmedia crossover event or a wholly different imagining with a new cast (ala “The Flash”) is yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, CBS TV Studios and Yari Film Group (the company that produced and distributed the film) are very hot on magically transforming Neil Burger’s 2006 sleeper hit The Illusionist into a show, although very little of the film’s plot remains.

Writer Mark Hudis (“True Blood”) has transplanted the action from the film’s Vienna setting to 1900’s New York, where a renowned magician returns home after a decade in prison to find his wife married to the crime boss who framed him. The illusionist poses as an underling in the boss’ organization in order to take him out from the inside and win back his wife, sort of like “Boardwalk Empire” with magic.

The original Illusionist starred Edward Norton as a magician competing with the Crown Prince of Austria for the heart of a beautiful noblewoman (Jessica Biel) while being ruthlessly hunted by the chief of police (Paul Giamatti). The film grossed nearly the same amount at the box office as Christopher Nolan’s similarly-themed The Prestige, despite costing half as much.