The globe-trotting chess adventures of Beth Harmon still aren’t likely to continue despite Netflix’s most-watched limited series (at 62M worldwide) earning not only two Golden Globe nominations today but an Adapted Long Form WGA nomination for Scott Frank’s scripts.
“It’s wonderful to know that people loved the show where they want to spend more time with these characters; we never envisioned it that way,” says The Queen’s Gambit EP William Horberg. “We felt that the series had a satisfying endpoint and we’d allow the audience to fill in the space as to what happens next for Beth Harmon. Nothing has changed, despite fans demanding more on my Twitter feed. Scott and I feel really happy about the completeness of Beth’s story.”
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At the Globes, Queen’s Gambit received a nom in the Limited Series category and for Anya Taylor-Joy in the Best Actress Limited Series slot. Taylor-Joy herself counted another Golden Globe nom today in the Best Actress Feature Musical-Comedy slot for Emma. They are the actress’ first two Globe noms.
Bringing the Walter Tevis-penned novel to any screen was a decades-long journey. Allan Scott was attached for 30 years, with Horberg joining him to develop 20 years ago. The latter producer of Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley believed that Frank was an obvious candidate to adapt the material. It was during Horberg’s 1980s executive days at Paramount that he first met Frank.
“He wrote Little Man Tate, and this was a thematic cousin to that about young genius and the cost of genius,” says the EP.
Multiple attempts were made to turn Queen’s Gambit into a feature film, but the plight of a young female chess player during the Cold War and the cost of shooting in Europe put movie executives off.
“The marketplace just didn’t deem it commercial enough,” Horberg says. Not to mention, adapting the book into a film would have “reduced it to a sports narrative,” he adds.
“A movie would have lost what makes Queen’s Gambit special, which is this character, her perseverance, coming-of-age and emotional growth. It’s that journey through seven episodes which resonates so deeply with people,” Horberg says.
The long and winding trail for Queen’s Gambit is quite prestigious: The Oscar-winning late filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci was attached to make the movie at one point. Another version had Molly Ringwald starring in a Michael Apted-directed take. Then producer Jerry Weintraub was pushing to make a version in the 1980s with Scott. The latter came very close to making Queen’s Gambit with the late Heath Ledger attached to make his feature directorial debut.
The success of Frank’s Godless on Netflix put the creator into a position to finally propel Queen’s Gambit into a reality.
Regarding to the world’s love affair with Beth Harmon, Horberg says: “I don’t think we’ve seen anyone like Beth portrayed. She has so much complexity, contradiction, ambiguity; she’s a killer, and she’s completely vulnerable. She’s a nerd and super sexy cool. I think she defies the tropes and stereotypes and seems to be a character who comes in the world at the right time. People connect with her uniqueness and her journey, and her story is really ultimately a story of survival, and 2020 was the year of existential crisis for the world.”
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