Movie Talk

Scorsese, Mendes and Other Big Name Directors Turning To The Small Screen

Movie Talk

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Scorsese's 'Gangs of New York' is getting adapted for television (Everett Collection)

Most television series now seem like one big long movie anyway, so it makes sense that movies are now becoming television.

Oscar-winning director and "Boardwalk Empire" creator Martin Scorsese is embarking on another ultra-ambitious small-screen project as he looks to adapt "Gangs of New York" as a TV series. Scorsese is teaming up with Miramax, the company that produced the 2002 feature film when it was under Harvey Weinstein's watch, along with GK Films for the endeavor.

"This time and era of America's history and heritage is rich with characters and stories that we could not fully explore in a two-hour film," Scorsese said in a press release. "A television series allows us the time and creative freedom to bring this colorful world, and all the implications it had and still does on our society, to life."

"Gangs of New York" (the film) takes place in the Five Points district of Lower Manhattan as it chronicles the rise of organized crime in America from 1846 through 1863, as seen through the eyes of Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), an Irish immigrant seeking revenge against charismatic yet extremely dangerous crime boss and political swindler Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, though probably out of a sense of obligation more than anything else; it's one of those Scorsese movies that people tend to "appreciate" more than "like."

Scorsese isn't the only A-list Hollywood filmmaker who's been dabbling in television lately. Showtime recently picked up "Penny Dreadful," a psychosexual horror drama created by "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes and co-writer John Logan that will feature several classic characters from horror literature -- including Victor Frankenstein and his creature, Dorian Gray and Dracula -- as they cross paths in Victorian London. The Coen Brothers are producing a series for FX based on their 1996 dark crime comedy, "Fargo," which will be written by "The Unusuals" and "My Generation" creator Noah Hawley. And even Lana and Andy Wachowski, the creators of "The Matrix" and "Cloud Atlas," will be adapting their epic, sprawling cinematic vision to the small screen as they team up with Netflix for "Sense8," a (not surprisingly) super-secret project described only as "a gripping tale of minds linked and souls hunted" that was born from a conversation about the benefits and perils of technology.

Television used to be widely considered as the "second choice" for any actor or director next to feature films, but the medium has certainly raised the bar in both storytelling and resources in recent years. Even our most passive Sunday night entertainment like "Game of Thrones" now has Hollywood blockbuster-level production value, decent writing and intriguing characterizations -- it's no wonder that many of our big-screen directors now want in on that world, which also offers (relatively) more creative freedom than the movie studio system.

"Gangs of New York" will take place at the turn of the 20th Century in New York and other major U.S. cities like Chicago as it continues to explore the rise of organized crime. The series has yet to be attached to a network.

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