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The Saint Revival Promises ‘New Take’ on Simon Templar

Two Saints: Adam Rayner with Roger Moore (courtesy Saint.org)

The classic thriller The Saint is plotting a return to television with a new pilot that recasts Adam Rayner as the suave adventurer Simon Templar, with Eliza Dushku as his on-again, off-again romantic interest and Greg Grunberg as Detective Garces.

While the faces may be new, the revival (which doesn’t yet have a network) won’t neglect longtime fans of Simon Templar. For starters, Roger Moore, who starred in the 1960s TV series, is executive producing and will appear on screen.

“We have a very fun and interesting new take on The Saint,” co-producer Jim Martin teased Spinoff Online. “It’s not a reboot and it’s not a remake. You know how J.J. Abrams managed to create the new Star Trek franchise without burning the longtime Trekkies and Trekkers? Well, we know that the long and storied history of Simon Templar has borne a ton of Saint fans, and we plan on embracing that fan base. Not only are we including Sir Roger Moore in our pilot but, we are also lucky enough to get Ian Ogilvy, who starred as Simon Templar in 1978-79 incarnation The Return of the Saint.

In the 85 years since his debut in Leslie Charteris’ 1928 novel The Saint, Simon Templar has appeared in more than 75 books (36 of which were written by his creator), 15 films, 11 radio serials, two TV shows, a series of made-for-TV movies, and a decade-long comic strip. But as Martin explained to Spinoff Online, there are still more stories to tell.

Spinoff Online: What drew you to this project?

Jim Martin: 2012 was the 50th anniversary of the Sir Roger Moore TV Series’ premiere! What better time than now to get back in the Saintly game? In addition to this, the estate of Leslie Charteris, the creator of The Saint and epically cool writer of the books, has been trying to get The Saint back on the air for years. Apart from the Philip Noyce/ Val Kilmer movie in 1997, there was a series of two-hour movies of the week starring Simon Dutton as Simon Templar in ’89, after CBS tried to fire up the franchise again in 1987 with Andrew Clarke as The Saint in Manhattan.

Eliza Dushku and Adam Rayner (courtesy Saint.org

Personally, I’ve been a fan of The Saint since I was a kid and I’d watch the Sir Roger Moore series in repeat with my grandfather and my parents (whenever I could find it on TV, to be honest). And the project has been somewhat of a dream for me for a long time. It’s been a strange series of events that led me to get involved. Long story short, I pitched a pilot to MPCA, who had the rights. They liked my pitch, but I had no showrunner credits to speak of, so as they say, “Sorry, no” was the answer. As MPCA approached the second half of 2012, they needed to get something going to shoot or risk losing the rights again. I talked to Alex Coscas, co-executive producer on the project and longtime friend. and told him I could bring in my friend Jesse Alexander (of Heroes/Lost/Hannibal fame) to write/executive produce. Brad Krevoy and MPCA made Jesse and I a deal, and we were off to the races, writing the pilot and a bible…

In other incarnations, The Saint travels the world. Will that also be true in this series?

Scenes for the pilot were shot in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Pedro, London and Switzerland.
The Saint is just what you alluded to — an international show. Based out of London and New York, Simon will travel to exotic and intriguing locations that stretch from Shanghai and Singapore to Paris and Mumbai.

Friends, family? What kind of social milieu will The Saint find himself in your series?

As far as his social scene? Simon Templar is an aspirational character who plays amidst the aristocracy, with the crème de la crème, while constantly undercutting those in his social sphere and stealing from those he deems “unsaintly.” Simon has very few friends, but those he trusts with his life. His BFF and associate is Patricia Holm (Eliza Dushku), a beautiful tech guru with the skills of an assassin. His wheel man and op-tech liaison in L.A. is Doyle Consentino (Yani Gellman). There are other players in the series that he runs into frequently — Special Agent John Henry Fernack (Enrique Murciano) seems to be always just a fraction of a step behind ,and Rayt Marius (Thomas Kretschmann) is a longtime antagonist and violent psychopath whom Simon is forced to thwart.

From what I’ve read, Simon Templar’s nefarious past is only hinted at in the books. Will that figure in your series and his “conversion” from petty criminality into hero?

I like to think that our plan for Season 1 will bring that conversion and realization into the light. Simon’s origin may be a mystery, but his driving forces are not, and there’s a lot of questions that we have to answer, and between you and I, we have some amazing plans for the next few seasons (fingers crossed).

Simon Templar’s moral code derives, at least in the books, from a certain idealization of the Knight’s Templar, who, historically, protected European pilgrims to the Holy Land and also acted as bankers. Will you get into any of this history in your show and how it might inform The Saint’s actions?

Yes!

Tell me about your cast. How do you go about choosing someone to play Simon Templar?

Greg Grunberg and Eliza Dushku

Casting this show was a joy. We got to see some of the best actors in the world, and we managed to only pick the best. Simon Templar is interesting, when you think about it. He has to toe the line between criminal and hero. He has to be dangerous but loveable. He has to be charming and charismatic but also a physical force to be reckoned with. Oh, and he must be English. I like to think that we found the perfect package with Adam Rayner. I think once audiences see this pilot. they will agree. And what can we say about the beautiful, talented and all-around bad-ass Eliza Dushku? She’s been on my radar as someone I’ve wanted to work with for years, and when we started casting and she became available, I jumped at the opportunity. She’s a rock star … and it doesn’t hurt that she’s from Boston as well! Enrique Murciano is a revelation. I didn’t know how brilliant this guy was until I met him in the room before we shot. I knew I loved his acting, but goddamn, I love that man! He’s great. And the hits just kept coming. Yani Gellman is amazing. Greg Grunberg is a stud (and a friend from a long way back on Heroes). Greg. as Dectective Garces, is assigned to Special Agent Fernack’s LAPD’s liaison.

Beatrice Rosen is without a doubt one of the best casting choices I’ve ever been a part of. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do with Katherine Valecross, we didn’t even know what age she was to be … but when Beatrice taped we said, “Get her in this show somehow!” and we did! James Remar is a favorite of mine who brings it to such a high level when he’s on set. Sonalii Castillo read for a part when we were auditioning and we fell in love with her and changed the part to her name! Jason Brooks came in as Captain Miller and knocked it out of the park — he’s as funny and handsome as he is talented. It’s amazing! Michael Ornstein as Kal Barko — please. How good is that guy? I mean, just his looks, his eyes, his nuance. So great. Oh! And Sammi Hanratty! How amazing is she? Any 17-year-old that can make words that adult men write sound that realistic is a rock star. She’s going to be so huge. I hope she hires me some day.

Any unique production details? Anything you find particularly unique or exciting about The Saint returning to TV?

There are so many interesting and exciting things we’re doing with The Saint’s return to TV. The pilot was produced independently, so we have the ability to go anywhere! We also did some amazing things with special effects, visual effects, locations and performances that I just can’t even express how excited I am. Simon Templar is back, and the television landscape is his playground!

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Comments

  • Nick

    Is that not Ian Ogilvy in the picture rather than Sir Roger..?

  • JozefAL

    “It’s not a reboot and it’s not a remake. You know how J.J. Abrams managed to create the new Star Trek franchise without burning the longtime Trekkies and Trekkers?”

    Yeah, well, if that were really the case.  Abrams’ Trek IS a reboot.  (Remind me, for example, of when Jim Kirk’s dad was a member of Starfleet or when Kirk served aboard the Enterprise with Christopher Pike or when Vulcan was destroyed by a “time-displaced” Romulan madman in the ORIGINAL Trek universe or when Chekov was on the bridge during Kirk’s first days in command.  Since NONE of those events happened in the Original series, its movies or any of the spin-off series, that’s enough to call it a “reboot.”)   

    As for the comparison to “The Saint,” when you show me all the “Saint” media that’s been around either in print (via comics or MMPBs) or on film (via TV or film) in a pretty consistent format for 30 years, then we can talk about the character’s “fans.” 

    Don’t misunderstand.  I’m sure there is a fanbase out there but NO ONE confuses Abrams’ “Star Trek” with the original and its assorted spin-offs and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard any long-time Trekkies or Trekkers describe the Abrams version as “not a reboot” or “not a remake.”

    If this “new take” is being compared to Abrams-Trek, then “longtime fans” of “The Saint” would do well to prepare themselves for ignoring a great deal of the old Saint history because it’s going to be tossed by the wayside.  Of course, there is every chance that co-producer Jim Martin didn’t actually watch any of the pre-Abrams Trek material and only saw Abrams’ version and therefore doesn’t know what he’s talking about with the comparison.  “Saint” fans can only hope he has more knowledge of the original “Saint” shows.

  • http://twitter.com/dcrwrites Dave Robinson

    If you call it a “spy thriller,” you don’t get the Saint. Period, end of sentence.

    Simon was never a spy.

    The good thing is that they do have Patricia Holm as a character, and John Henry Fernack, but it really needs Claud Eustace Teal, Norman Kent, Hoppy Uniatz, and Roger Conway.

  • KevinJ

    Real Saint fans go back to the Leslie Charteris books, and particularly the early ones set in the 1930s. The Roger Moore TV series was set in the 1960s and took the character but not the stories. (The 1997 Val Kilmer film was a travesty.) 

    If you are going to make a new TV show in the 21st century, there are two choices: (i) go back to the original stories and set them in the 1930s as historical adventure dramas, or (ii) put them in the present day with new stories, but retain the character of the man. You can’t bring the old stories into the present day. One plot, I remember, hinged on the Saint driving a hundred miles back to London ahead of some bad guys, before those bad guys could tell other bad guys that the Saint had betrayed them. They didn’t even have telephones! Today, a quick call on the mobile/cell and the Saint is toast. The 1960s stories will fall foul of the same advances in technology. So new stories are required: straight remakes are not on.As for a reboot, I don’t think the Saint has a canon, in the way that Star Trek does, so there isn’t something there to reboot, really. If they come up with good stories, a character close to the original, and sufficient “Saintly flourishes” (as Charteris put it), I’ll be happy. I just hope it gets across to the UK.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Mclachlan/747758431 Jeff Mclachlan

    Actually, a lot of saint episodes were based on Leslie Charteris stories.

  • Schnitzy Pretzelpants

     Yup.

    I know it is profile only, but I can but there is NO way that is Sir Roger Moore, based on the more recent photos I have seen of him.

    Not just the age not looking right, the hair colour is way off.

  • Guest

    Great article, Pam. Although as you know, I’d quibble with Mr. Martin about whether Abrams burned long time Trek fans with his reboot. As you know, I consider that Abrams burned original Star Trek with his superficial travesty. For example, I don’t think original Star Trek would have lasted nearly 50 years with Abrams’ attitude of ‘oh, well, Vulcan is destroyed – don’t matter cuz it ain’t in our universe’ and let’s keep the cadet in charge after the emergency because he doesn’t need to learn anything — hey, he’s Captain Kirk. (Oh, and I loved Captain Kirk so I’m not trashing him, only this new version of him). I shudder to think what Abrams is going to do to Star Wars.

  • Guest

    I forgot to say that I’m definitely looking forward to seeing your take on The Saint series.  Loved the original. Love all Roger Moore’s work, even his new stuff. My favorite though is The Persuaders and I wish they had been able to go more than one season.  Not too fond of the Val Kilmer movie. Much as I like Val Kilmer as an actor, I agree with Jim Martin that The Saint needs a Brit in the role.  Or at least, someone who has grown up in UK and has filtered in the nuances of that society that is very subtly different from ours here.

  • Ian Dickerson

    Yeah but you can’t have Teal and Fernack in the same adventure. This is a US based story, hence the inclusion of John Henry. Trust me, if we go to series you’ll see more of his friends…

  • Ian Dickerson

    Yeah but you can’t have Teal and Fernack in the same adventure. This is a US based story, hence the inclusion of John Henry. Trust me, if we go to series you’ll see more of his friends…

  • Ian Dickerson

    Yeah but you can’t have Teal and Fernack in the same adventure. This is a US based story, hence the inclusion of John Henry. Trust me, if we go to series you’ll see more of his friends…

  • Ian Dickerson

    Yeah but you can’t have Teal and Fernack in the same adventure. This is a US based story, hence the inclusion of John Henry. Trust me, if we go to series you’ll see more of his friends…

  • c_r_gauthier

    The image above is Adam and Ian Ogilvy, not Roger Moore, that should be corrected.

    That being said the goal of this show isn’t to redo what the older TV shows did, but to be inspired from Leslie Charteris’ many books.

    From what I gather anyway.

    I have all ‘the Saint” books, that character is still my favorite of all times. so, when I watch the full pilot, I’ll be able to better ascertain how all of this translated to the new TV show.

    But the goal is to bring the Saint into the 21st century and as such, we have to expect the character and the setting that goes with him to be adapted to our times.

    Now, in the realm of what we are familiar with as far as the Saint character and associates etc.. goes.

    Adam Rayner is playing the Saint and from what I can tell, he seems to be hitting all the right notes. He’s British and has the build and physique to play the role. He’s cheeky and he’s got eyebrow thing going (ala Roger Moore). Suffice to say, I would say he’s well chosen as the lead. In fact, many of the books I have of the Saint, depicts a man who pretty much looks like him in stature and in silhouette.

    Patricia Holm is played by Eliza Dushku (Angel, Dollhouse, etc.). In the books, Patricia is British, tall, long legged, slim and blonde. That’s NOT Dushku, but in this iteration, she seems to be an ass-kicker in her own rights and she’s got hacker skills. Considering this is the 21st century, it’s important to have these skills and thus, it seems Holm will be the techno-geek /assassin in the Saint’s crew.

    John Henry Fernack is played by Enrique Murciano. Now, in the books, Fernack is a tall man, built like a brickhouse and he’s 100% New Yorker. So, this isn’t what we are used to from the books. But Fernack’s Inspector / cop type is a stereotype which doesn’t translate well in today’s world, so, maybe Murciano’s casting will make this work. Obviously, from the trailer, this Fernack seems tenacious and wants the Saint’s ass put behind bars, so in that respect, we are seeing some aspect of the old Fernack. Now, I’m not so sure if he’s an Inspector. He’s travelling to hunt the Saint and that’s not something you would expect from a NY inspector. So he might be a special agent or something.

    They have Rayt Marius in the pilot and he’s played by Thomas Kretschmann. I think he’s well cast. I hope he doesn’t die in the pilot. In the books, he’s the Saint arch enemy (the early books after Meets the Tiger, when the Saint ran with his crew “Conway, Kent and Tremayne”) and was in several books before he died and even then, he left a little legacy to Templar which ended up as a novella in another Saint book.

    Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy are both actually playing in the series.

    Roger Moore’s character is Jasper the Banker, whom I believe will be some sort of mentor to Simon Templar. Roger Moore is also a co-producer. He’s going to be literally guiding Rayner on and off screen, so to me, that’s kinda cool and I feel that Rayner is lucky to have that type of support.

    Ogilvy will be playing the Fixer, and I think he’s an antagonist who wants the Templar family dead. Now, he’s only slated to appear in the pilot, but, it is possible his character will come back once in a while.

    By the way, beside the awful “the Saint” movie with Val Kilmer. We’ve never been introduced to anything close to a family and early years of Simon Templar. This is all new territory. So I’m wondering how that plays out, and I’m also wondering if this element is added in an organic and logical manner to the story.

    The mystique of the Saint was that we didn’t know his origins, to borrow from Churchill, the Saint’s past is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. I hope they really took great care in this aspect of the story. While everything has an origin, I would hope that he didn’t become The Saint because his parents died. That would be way too Batman and it’s not needed. In a way, it’s kinda like why I loved the 2nd Batman movie the Dark Knight. Joker didn’t have a history with Batman. There was no origin to him. Joker was a whack job psychopath, pure, plain and simple. There was elegance and simplicity in this.

    Now something else to add. The Saint started off in anonymity. He would leave his calling card behind, but nobody knew who he was, if he was alone, etc.

    Eventually, there was a story which made his secret come out, but for a while he started off in the dark.

    It was one of the many reasons he was so feared by the criminal elements.

    Judging from the trailer, it wouldn’t seem as if this is the case. Of course, this is the 21st century and between digital footprints, cameras, etc. It’s much harder to be that said ghost.

    I was kinda hoping that they would have started off with the Saint being an unknown and have people try and figure out who he is. It’s not going to happen mind you, as we already know from the pilot. People know who the Saint is and what he’s about. Too bad. But the Saint was also a master of disguise with tons of alias and personas, including the infamous Sebastian Tombs. So one can only wonder at the direction the show will take.

    Now, for those who know the Saint, Patricia Holm is Templar’s first partner in crime and the one who has always been on and off many of Templar’s adventures.

    He had others however, they were:

    Roger Conway, Norman Kent and Dicky Tremayne were part of the very early crew. Kent died, shot by Marius and the others eventually settled down.

    Archie Sheridan, Peter Quentin and Monty Hayward joined the Saint in one or 2 Saintly adventures.

    Simon had an ex-military valet, his name was Orace whom was really loyal.

    At some point, Simon had another companion in the name of Hoppy Uniatz who wasn’t too bright, but quick and accurate with anything that shot bullets and who could drink alcohol like a fish takes to water. Hoppy’s loyalty was unquestionable. Templar and God were synonymous.

    Many of the literary adventures of the Saint have Hoppy, Patricia and Orace in them.

    Now, in the TV Show, Templar will be operating from both London and NY and be travelling across the globe.

    So, you have to wonder who will be playing Claud Eustace Teal on the British side. It’s hard to imagine the Saint without Teal. Frenemies they were, even when such a word didn’t exist back then.

    You also have to wonder if eventually, any of the other characters I listed (beside Patricia) will somehow make their way to this new version of the TV show.

    Anyways, I’m looking forward to see this pilot, I wonder which network it will be aired on.

  • gtr

    The Val Kilmer film backstory is derived from a line Simon says in the original books, “I’m an orphan.” Which may or may not be true but probably is, because in the books we never hear of any family or his early history except that he began adventuring in his teens. I don’t know what story the “orphan” line occurs in, but I always remembered it.