mobydick

It’s rare that I look at a TV project and wish that it were a $100m theatrical production instead of a much smaller television affair. I like seeing what creative teams can do with ingenuity rather than money, so almost never think something should be more expensive. But I do wish the $25m television version of Moby Dick, currently shooting, had more cash to work with. Oceangoing stories look amazing on the big screen, and we get so few of them. Still, with the cast assembled for this version of Herman Melville’s novel, I’ll take what I can get.

The first two big names to be cast were William Hurt, playing Melville’s vengeful and immediately archetypical Captain Ahab. Ethan Hawke is his first officer Starbuck, the classic audience identifcation character who has the temerity to say, “uh, Ahab, this is a little nuts,” as Ahab hunts the white whale that took his leg. Now Variety reports that three more names have joined: Donald Sutherland is playing Father Mapple, Gillian Anderson is Ahab’s wife Elizabeth, and Charlie Cox, who played the lead in Matthew Vaugn’s Stardust, is that utterer of one of literature’s most famous lines, Ishmael. The Mike Barker-directed telefilm, from a script by Nigel Williams, is the most expensive production ever to come from Germany’s Tele Munchen Group. The duo previously adapted Jack London’s The Sea Wolf. They’ll use big fancy CGI effects to make this version of the Pequod appear seaworthy.

Then again, why film Moby Dick once more? I love the story, but what’s the chance that this will top John Huston’s 1956 version with Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart, written by Ray Bradbury? Not hard to see Huston sort of casting himself as a version of Ahab, trying to adapt the massive book, and his film works as a great adventure story. Then there was supposed to be a version directed by Timur Bekmambetov; last I knew that was still in development, but perhaps this version will harpoon Universal’s plans for a big, big version of the novel.

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