Amazon Orders a Remake of British Series ‘Utopia’

Poster for the original British series Utopia (Credit: Channel 4).

By Trixie Pacis | 7 Mar 2019 at 10:34am

Good news for those who enjoyed Sharp Objects and Gone Girl—Gillian Flynn has her next project teed up: a U.S. adaptation of the 2013-14 British series Utopia.

According to Deadline, Amazon Studios has made a nine-episode straight-to-series order of the project. Flynn will be taking the helm as creator, executive producer, and showrunner. This news comes four years after the series, which was initially set at HBO with David Fincher directing, came to an unexpected halt.

What happened to Fincher’s Utopia?

David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac) and Flynn had been working on a U.S. adaptation of Utopia back in 2015. Fincher had also been attached to executive produce. He brought Flynn onboard as a writer following their partnership on Gone Girl, which Fincher directed from the script Flynn wrote based on her book of the same name.

The Fincher-Flynn adaptation of Utopia was in pre-production when prep suddenly ceased. It came unexpectedly after a month of cast rehearsals with Rooney Mara, Jason Ritter, Colm Feore, Eric McCormack, and Dallas Roberts. According to Deadline, Fincher and HBO were in disagreement over budget. While HBO considered bringing another director onboard, the project did not move forward.

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Unfortunately, the comedy Video Synchronicity (Fincher’s other HBO project at the time) also met a similar fate. At least Sharp Objects materialized as a subsequent collaboration between Flynn and HBO. The mini-series, which premiered July 2018, features Amy Adams’ first major small screen role.

How did Flynn get the gig?

“We are huge fans of Gillian Flynn’s electrifying work,” Amazon’s head of alternative series Nick Hall told the Hollywood Reporter. “She crafts stories that hold her audience in a constant state of suspense and subverts the expectations behind her characters. She will deliver Prime Video members a series they won’t forget, and Utopia‘s relevance is sure to connect with viewers around the globe.”

After Utopia developer Shine America merged with Endemol, the new company (Endemol Shine North America) continued working on the project. They kept Flynn onboard throughout the process. Several months ago, they reached out to Amazon about partnering on the adaptation. The project was greenlit mere weeks after Jennifer Salke’s new appointment as head of Amazon Studios.

What is the series about?

Based on Dennis Kelly’s British series of the same name, Utopia follows a group of young adults who meet online that are mercilessly hunted by a shadowy deep state organization after they come into possession of a near-mythical cult underground graphic novel. Within the comic’s pages, they discover the conspiracy theories that may actually be real and are forced into the dangerous, unique and ironic position of saving the world.

Utopia is pure creative catnip to me,” Flynn told the Hollywood Reporter. “Dennis Kelly’s show blew my mind, and he has been so incredibly generous in letting me crack open his world and play around in it and make it my own weird, wild place. Utopia is all about exploring resonant issues within dark, twisted storytelling — it’s a series that’s urgent and current and a little ‘holy crap!’ but a hell of a lot of fun.”

Kelly’s Utopia first premiered in 2013 on Channel 4 and ran for two seasons. The original was also produced by Kudos and Shine America. It seems that the original has been a great source of inspiration to Flynn.

Will this be Utopia series 3?

It is very unlikely that the series will continue on from the original British Utopia series. Instead we would expect the American version of Utopia to start the story from series 1 and be very similar to the British series, at least to begin with. Most US remakes of British shows tend to follow this format of very closely following the British version at the very start of the remake.

When will Utopia air?

While a premiere date has not yet been determined, we do know that Amazon plans to distribute the series in 200 countries and territories.

Who plays the lead?

Sasha Lane in American Honey (Credit: A24).

Sasha Lane, who broke out as an actress playing the lead role in American Honey, will be making her small screen debut as Jessica Hyde. Her character is ‘tough and feral’ due to life on the run. She believes answers to her perplexing life story can be found in the graphic novel “Utopia.”

“As I’ve been writing ‘Utopia’ and trying to imagine the actor who could possibly embody Jessica Hyde, Sasha Lane has constantly kicked her way into my mind,” series creator Gillian Flynn told Variety. “She has the shape-shifting ability to feel at once raw, unpredictable and a little unnerving while also making you want to wrap your arms around her. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her play this utterly unique character.”

Who else is in the cast?

Rainn Wilson will be appearing alongside Lane as Michael Stearns. Dan Byrd (Cougar Town) will play Ian, an online college grad with a soul-sucking job who lives with his grandma. Cory Michael Smith (Gotham) will play Thomas Christie, a biotechnician who works under his father at Christie Laboratories. He is desperate to prove himself when tasked with finding the graphic novel.

The most recent cast additions are Ashleigh LaThrop (Sirens, The Kominsky Method, The 100), Desmin Borges (You’re the Worst), Farrah Mackenzie (Ascension, Logan Lucky), and Christopher Denham (Billions, Shutter Island).

According to Deadline, LaThrop will play ‘bright and big-hearted’ Becky whose empathy get her closer to the graphic novel she so desperately needs. Borges is Wilson Wilson, an eccentric and conspiracy theorist whose primary obsession is Utopia. Mackenzie will play Alice, a curious foster child who becomes entangled in the dangerous world of Utopia. Denham plays Arby, a ‘shark-like menace’ who happens to be socially inept and emotionally stunted.

Is there a trailer?

Flynn’s Utopia is in early stages and does not have a trailer yet. However, you can watch a trailer for the original British version to get a sense of the show below.

Has Amazon found its own Game of Thrones?

Only time will tell. That said, Amazon has been adding some catchy programs to its slate to compete with other networks. These other projects include the Lord of the Rings TV series, a reboot of Hanna, and a new take on The Peripheral with Westworld’s Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan.

With Utopia in the mix, there’s a good chance that one—if not all—of these projects will be absolute knockouts.


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