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?