Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch has signed on to lead a limited series adaptation of author John Buchan’s novel The 39 Steps, which was adapted by directing icon Alfred Hitchcock way back in 1935. The Cumberbatch-led series will reportedly update the story for modern day, with Netflix winning the rights to the project.
First published in 1915, author John Buchan’s novel The 39 Steps follows adventurer Richard Hannay, who has just returned from South Africa. He quickly becomes thoroughly bored with London life, until he is accosted by a mysterious American, who warns him of an assassination plot that could completely destabilize the fragile political balance of Europe. Initially sceptical, Hannay nonetheless harbours the man, but one day returns home to find him murdered.
An obvious suspect, Hannay flees to his native Scotland, pursued by both the police and a cunning, ruthless enemy. With his life and the security of Britain in grave peril, everything rests on the solution to a baffling enigma: what are the ‘thirty nine steps?’
This Netflix iteration has been described as “a provocative, action-packed conspiracy thriller series that updates the classic novel for relevance in contemporary times. An ordinary man, Richard Hannay, becomes an unwitting pawn in a vast, global conspiracy to reset the world order: 39 Steps that will change the world as we know it, with only Hannay standing in the way.”
Alongside Cumberbatch, The 39 Steps series will be written by The Revenant’s Mark L. Smith, with Edward Berger, who previously worked with Cumberbatch on the critically acclaimed Showtime series Patrick Melrose, set to direct every episode.
Hitchcock’s classic adaptation largely veered away from the book in many respects, and it sounds like the new series will do as well, though steer things back a little more towards the source material, while maintaining the “wrong man on the run” element that makes the story so gripping.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Alan Turing in 2014’s The Imitation Game, is hot Hollywood property these days, and should provide a compelling lead for The 39 Steps limited series. The actor has quickly climbed to the tippy top of the A-list thanks to performances in the likes of Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 12 Years a Slave, Star Trek into Darkness, and as Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He will soon return to the world of Marvel in upcoming sequels Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will introduce audiences to a previously unexplored side of the MCU, the multiverse. While specific plot details are largely unknown, the Doctor Strange sequel will see Cumberbatch once again reprise the role of the Sorcerer Supreme, with Chiwetel Ejiofor also set to return as friend-turned-enemy, Karl Mordo. Directed by Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled to be released in the United States on March 25, 2022, with Spider-Man: No Way Home swinging onto screens on 17 December 2021.
The 39 Steps has not yet begun production, but it has been reported that the series will be comprised of around six hourlong episodes, with the project most likely due to shoot next year in Europe. This comes to us from Deadline.