Home Categories Movies The Saint is back – but which version?
The Saint is back – but which version?

The Saint is back – but which version?

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Simon Templar will be returning to the silver screen – but what sort of Saint would we like to see?

The news broke recently that Paramount pictures were in negotiation to pick up rights to The Saint – the original and best crimefighting vigilante, who served as partial inspiration for James Bond, and dozens of other suave, fictional crimefighters like him.

It seems ironic that in an era of reboots and sequels – this past year alone giving us a new Robocop, Jurassic Park, Terminator and Ghostbusters – one of the most evergreen and versatile intellectural properties of all time has been stuck in development hell for nearly two decades.

Simon Templar – a man who’s escaped being buried alive, fed to alligators, shot, beaten and set ablaze – almost managed to wriggle free in 2013, when a promising pilot for a TV show was filmed featuring Adam Rayner and Eliza Dushku; but that too seems to have disappeared off the radar.

 

 

Yet now, it really looks like it is happening.

As the world’s biggest Saint fan (well, one of them) I can’t express how excited I am to hear this – although it comes with a little trepidation. The last time The Saint hit the big screen, it was in the 1997 movie with Val Kilmer; which was a fairly good adventure movie, but not one about the Simon Templar I’ve been obsessed with my whole life.

 

 

The fact that producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Brad Krevoy and Robert Evans have been rumored to be attached to the project bodes well that it might actually happen – but what sort of Saint will we end up meeting if it does?

With that in mind – here are my thoughts about what we would and wouldn’t like in a newly-rebooted Saint.

 

1. Cast somebody amazing.

The 1960s were when The Saint was at its peak, due largely to the awesome TV show that was airing, starring Roger Moore as Simon Templar. He really set the tone for the onscreen Saint, and if any movie or TV show is to succeed, they need to find an actor of similar charismatic suaveness.

He has to be handsome, charming and British. And he has to have the kind of laid back, easy charm that snaps knicker elastic at 50 paces. We’re done with brooding badboys – the Jason Bournes and the Daniel Craig-type Bonds. We need a lethal hero whose smile is as dangerous as his fists; and who literally laughs in the face of danger.

I’m going out on a limb here and saying Michael Fassbender or Tom Hiddleston would be perfect for the role, but let’s wait to see what happens if the Paramount deal really happens.

2. Keep it contemporary.

The Saint has his roots in the 1930s, and I think there’s enormous scope for a period-set TV show that showcases the wild and dangerous adventures he got up to during those tumultuous years. Think of it as Downton Abby meets Robin Hood.

But for a movie Saint? I’m quite keen on keeping it contemporary. After all, in the age of cyber terrorism, religious extremism and government overreach, there’s never been more need for a vigilante like Simon Templar. I can already envision him taking on the likes of Anonymous, or the Westboro Baptist Church, or Donald Trump. There are so many evil people who need a taste of justice that we desperately need a contemporary Simon Templar.

3. Give Simon some friends.

The original 1960s TV show, and most of the incarnations that followed, focused almost purely on Simon Templar. In the earlier books, though, he had a wonderful collection of compatriots to call upon; and I think you desperately need the gang to get a reboot along with Simon.

There’s conveniently available girlfriend Patricia Holm, hard-drinking heavy Hoppy Untaiz, like-minded vigilantes Monty Hayward and Roger Conway, and of course, brave Norman Kent, who sacrified himself at the end of The Saint Closes the Case to let Simon’s gang escape.

There’s a rich source of drama within the circle of Simon’s friends (such as Norman’s unrequited love for Patricia) and in an age of more sophisticated storytelling, I think you need to add some of this to get a really compelling narrative flowing.

4. Stay loyal to the source material…

Likewise, Saintly stalwarts like Simon’s antoganistic allies Claude Eustice Teal and Inspector Fernack, or nemesis Rayt Marius, would make great additions to any proposed script. Using established plot threads (like they attempted to do in the 2013 pilot) gives original Saint fans the Easter Eggs they’re craving, while providing a segue into the original books for anybody inspired by a modern-day reboot.

5. …but not too loyal.

But at the same time, you don’t want to get too caught up in it all. The last ‘official’ Saint book, Capture the Saint by crimewriter Burl Barer, featured characters from the most famous Saint novel, The Saint in New York, and that wound up making things hugely complicated. Was the Saint in the book the same crimefighter from 1928? Didn’t that make him about 99 years old?

It took a lot of suspension-of-disbelief to work around, and so I think any modern-day reboot needs to steer clear of that. A good model would be Daniel Craig’s Bond debut, Casino Royale, in which it was explained that he was a newly-minted 007, but didn’t explain how that fit into the overarching Bond mythos.

6. Have fun with it.

Another criticism of Burl Barer’s otherwise excellent Saint book was that there was some dark material in there: Child sex trafficking, meth labs and more. While a real Saint would definitely be out there dealing with the perpatrators of such crimes, I think it would be a lot better to steer clear of the sleazy stuff and keep our modern-day Saint battling more accessible awfulness.

I mentioned earlier a Donald Trump-esque politician, or a pastiche of the Westboro Baptist Church, or any of a million real-life crooks that need a comuppance. There are plenty of wrongs that Simon can right without having to go down the route of underage sex rings.

After all, the Saint is about having fun. Even when he’s being shot at, tortured or arrested, Simon Templar is ready with an easy smile. Any movie version of the Saint needs to give us that same reaction. We live in a dark, sad world full of hate and violence. Movies are relentlessly gritty and troubling. Give us a Saint who is a world away from that; with an easy smile and an infectious laugh and an uncompromising sense of right and wrong.

What do you think? Good suggestions? What would you like to see in a modern-day Saint reboot?


Militant Ginger Born and raised in the cathedral city of Winchester, Roland earned his Eurotrash merit badge in Paris before moving to America to seek his fortune. If you've seen it, please give him a shout, because he's still looking. A digital Don Draper with a Hemingway complex, Roland pays the bills with his social media savvy, but under various nom de plumes is a top-ranked Amazon author after hours, and is impatiently awaiting the day he can give up the rat race forever and write schlock in a cabin in the mountains.
  • Dwight Williams

    If I understood Mr. Barer’s intent with Capture the Saint, it was to keep the adventures of his version firmly in the here-and-now of the time of publication, whilst keeping Templar’s NYC misadventures roughly 20-30 years prior to that point. Not unlike Marvel and DC trying to keep their highest-profile characters eternally under-35 as much as possible in the comics themselves. A related, yet different, kind of editorial issue to cope with.

    As for the rest of it? There were some things even back in the day, where Templar and friends could be – and were – utterly uncompromising. Stopping a Second World War from starting ten years earlier than real history shows us was the case, for one. That very instance where Norman Kent’s sacrifice comes up, as you’ll recall.

  • Burl Barer

    The Saint does not age at the normal rate, yet he had matured beyond his portrayal in the earliest books well before CAPTURE THE SAINT,and this fact is mentioned in the opening lines of the novel when Simon Templar is asked, “Why are you still alive, Mr. Templar?” The person asking is referring to Simon’s escape from numerous certain-death scenarios, yet the Saint’s reply addresses Dwight’s concern head-on: “Mythological characters such as myself seldom age at the going rate,” responded the Saint cheerfully,”and if survival is the topic,”offered Simon, “I’ve been shot, gassed….”urre
    As for issues of sexual exploitation and illegal drugs — both these topics are prominently featured in early Saint novels, and it is stated more than once that the Saint’s primary targets are “traders in vice and damnation” The entire plot of The Saint Sees it Through is concerned with opium trafficking, and the climax of the novel takes place when the Saint kills two female villains who were about to put a red hot iron on a man’s genitals. So much for avoiding the dark side. It is the balance of light-hearted self-parody found in classic Saint adventures with the darkness of evil corruption and duplicitous villainy that makes The Saint so much fun
    There is one concept I would like to advance, and it is one I put forth in my book, “THE SAINT: A Complete History in Print, Radio Television and Film” written in 1993. The reason the Saint was “the famous Simon Templar” is because he had captured the public’s imagination with his daring bravado of eluding the authorities while looting the strongholds of criminals. He kept 10% of the money, and gave the rest to either the original victims or to charity, He was eventually captured but received a Royal Pardon for stopping a terrorist attack on the Royal Family. Now, I ask you: Is the thought of a terrorists making an attempt on the life of the Royal family any less believable today than in 1930? The original “backstory” on The Saint is perfect for today — the outrageous outlaw with altruistic motives whose. “celebrity” only makes for more opportunities for world wide adventures. His methods are illegal, but his motives are admirable.
    Tnanks for your kind words about Capture the Saint. There is a new novel being completed that while contemporary, does answer the question, :What ever happened to Patricia Holm?” — at least in part.

    Burl Barer.

    • rolandhulme

      Burl Barer! The man himself! I am really excited to see you here. First off, I’d like to say that I LOVED Capture the Saint – you managed to capture Leslie Charteris’ lyrical wordplay PERFECTLY and I loved a lot of the other fun elements you threw into it (like the old Saintmobile Volvo.) So please don’t take what I wrote as criticism (although trying to torch a meth lab with a bottle of Chardonnay was a bit of a stretch.)

      I think you outlined a LOT of thought process that went into your book that in typical blithe fashion I completely glossed over when I read it. I kind of encountered the same thing with James Bond when I read John Gardner’s 1980s books – he tried to make a single, consistent James Bond and that was a bit tricky when you had a man clearly in his 70s flying Harrier Jump Jets around trying to same Maggie Thatcher. You put a LOT of thought into a much more coherent explanation and in typical fashion I bulldozed past it, scratching my head and demanding: “How can the Saint be so old?”

      But I kind of like the approach you took. The latest Bond books kind of rebooted him as a modern-day character and totally rewrote his history and that just fell flat – why didn’t you just write a book about a different, modern day spy? I kind of like the unofficial explanation of the movies – that 007 is a name and number passed from one operative to the next. I think in the 2013 pilot of The Saint TV show that might have been what they were going for, and I wonder if that worked better.

      In any event, it’s definitely one obstacle to face; and you did a better job of it than anybody else could have.

      In more important news – I CAN’T WAIT to read the new Saint book and you better believe I’ll be slapping a big, loud review up here. You’re a terrific writer (I LOVED Man Overboard) and a worthy torchbearer of the Saint.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my little rambling!

      • Burl Barer

        The Chardonnay bit (one of my failed attempts at humor taken too seriously) has been revised for the next printing. An aspect of Charteris’ classic Saint novels that I most love is the self-parody, the almost giddy realization that while you’re reading the book, the characters are right there with you. In the forthcoming novel, The Sign of the Saint, I couldn’t resist the following tribute to those self-aware bits of business:
        “The Ungodly perceives us as immobilized, and potentially stripped of any heroic heritage. But we’ve always been the heroes, even when the pages were yellow and the movies were black and white, and unless there is a crossover promotion from another franchise we’re the only heroes in this adventure.”
        “Simon Templar,” Pat scolded, ”if you break the fourth wall again, I’m sending you a repair bill.”

  • Christopher Peruzzi

    Just don’t go venturing into Ian Ogilvy territory. That would be bad.