With James Bond successfully reinvented, Jason Bourne as strong as ever, and talk of Jack Ryan coming back, the studios have big plans to turn other classic espionage novels of the 60’s and 70’s into contemporary action thriller franchises.
As previously mentioned, Quentin Tarantino is already looking into adapting Len Deighton’s “Game Set Match” trilogy into a feature film, whilst remakes of Alistair Maclean’s “Ice Station Zebra” and “Where Eagles Dare” are in development at Sony Pictures.
Now, the trades report that fresh off his success with “There Will Be Blood”, director Paul Thomas Anderson is in early negotiations to helm Paramount’s “Horse Under Water” – the second of Deighton’s four novels featuring his most famous character creation – Harry Palmer.
Designed as a kind of anti-glamorous Bond, Deighton’s spy is hindered by bureaucracy, wears glasses, shops in supermarkets, lives in back street flats and seedy hotels, and is in need of a pay rise.
The original ‘Horse’ was set in 1960 and centers on a retrieval mission for a stockpile of forged British and American currency locked away in a sunken German U-Boat off the Portugese coast. As the mission progresses however, it’s quickly discovered that the cargo isn’t money but a top secret list of names that could devastate the British Government if it ever got out. The ‘Horse’ in the title is a code name for heroin which comes into play later in the action.
‘Horse’ is the only one of Deighton’s four major Palmer stories not to have been adapted for film so far. The other three – The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain – were all turned into a successful film trilogy in the 1960’s starring Michael Caine. Whilst the films use Palmer’s name, the novels famously avoided naming the protagonist altogether.
Anderson was initially offered the more action-oriented first Palmer book ‘Ipcress’. That book dealt with mind control technology and Palmer’s investigations into defections of leading British scientists. Anderson chose ‘Horse’ however as it is apparently “more suitable” for his style, and is considering keeping the film in its 1960 time period in order to differentiate itself from the other spy franchises.
No word as yet on when production is scheduled to begin.