The CW, which has Reign in its second season, is developing another period drama with roots in Western Europe — The Illusionist, based on the 2006 movie starring Ed Norton. The project, which will change the setting from Vienna to New York, comes from Yari Film Group, the company that produced and distributed the film; Electus; and CBS TV Studios.
The movie, written and directed by Neil Burger, was loosely based on Steven Millhauser’s short story, Eisenheim The Illusionist, and is considered a fictionalized account of the Mayerling Incident, which involved the apparent murder-suicide of Austria’s Crown Prince and his lover. Set in 1889 Vienna, the film tells the story of Eisenheim (Norton), a magician competing with the Crown Prince for the heart of a beautiful noblewoman (Jessica Biel) while being chased by the chief of police (Paul Giamatti), suspicious of his craft. The movie was a box-office success, grossing $88 million on a $17 million budget. (Watch the trailer above.)
Written by Mark Hudis (True Blood), the CW adaptation will take place in turn -of-the-century New York. It centers on a renowned illusionist who returns home from a decade in prison to find his wife married to the ruthless crime boss who framed him. Posing as an underling in the crime boss’ organization, the illusionist uses cunning magic to pull off elaborate heists, rising quickly through the organization in order to take down the boss from the inside and win back his one true love.
Hudis is executive producing with Bob Yari; Electus’ Ben Silverman, who had the idea to turn the movie into a series; and David Clark, former head of Yari Film Group’s TV division, who helped put the project together.
Yari previously saw another of his company’s movies, the Oscar-winning Crash, get a series adaptation at Starz. Silverman and Electus are behind the CW’s well-reviewed new series Jane The Virgin, which premiered last night.
The Illusionist joins a slew of series adaptations of movies this development season that include such blockbusters as Big, Minority Report and Rush Hour.
The CW has enjoyed success with magic-themed programming on the unscripted side via Masters of Illusion and especially Penn & Teller: Fool Us.