Johan Renck Directing The Magus

Director Johan Renck made waves last year with his Emmy-winning miniseries Chernobyl, and he’s about to follow it up with another miniseries.

Neal Street Productions is confirmed to be in talks with Johan Renck to helm of an adaptation of John Fowles‘ cult classic 1965 novel The Magus, a famously cryptic tale involving psychological traps and tricks executed on a young Englishman by a reclusive millionaire.

Variety confirmed news of Johan Renck directing The Magus after he not-so-subtly posted this on Instagram:

Here’s the official synopsis of the book (via Amazon):

A young Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, accepts a teaching post on a remote Greek island in order to escape an unsatisfactory love affair. There, his friendship with a reclusive millionaire evolves into a mysterious–and deadly–game of violence, seduction, and betrayal. As he is drawn deeper into the trickster’s psychological traps, Nicholas finds it increasingly difficult to distinguish past from present, fantasy from reality. He becomes a desperate man fighting for his sanity and his very survival.

The book is famous for having an ending that isn’t definitive, leaving it up to the reader to determine the outcome. According to Wikipedia, Fowles received many letters from readers inquiring about which of the two possible outcomes actually happened, and he apparently never answered conclusively.

As of now, Renck is only in talks to direct The Magus, but since producer Pippa Harris said that she “couldn’t think of anyone better to shepherd John Fowles’ extraordinary book to the screen,” it sounds like it’s close to being a done deal. Director Sam Mendes will also be producing through Neal Street Productions.

Writing duties will fall in the hands of Tom Edge, who recently wrote the screenplay for Judy, which brought Renée Zellweger back to the Oscars earlier this year. Edge has also had a hand in writing several episodes of The Crown and Netflix’s Lovesick.

The Magus has only been adapted for film once before, back in 1968, just a few years after it was published. Director and cinematographer Guy Green (A Patch of Blue) was at the helm of the movie and author John Fowles adapted his own book for the screen. However, the author ended up being disappointed with the film starring Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn, Candice Bergen and Anna Karina, and it was a critical disaster too.

Director Johan Renck can likely only improve upon the single adaptation of The Magus, and knowing what he did with the real life story of Chernobyl, we’re hopeful he can turn this mysterious thriller into a compelling miniseries.

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