Kirsty Capes with everything we know so far about Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events…
If you’re like me, and grew up devouring volumes of Lemony Snicket’s macabre and witty series, you’ll be a little more than a bit excited about the announcement late last year that Netflix will be turning the thirteen-volumes-strong A Series of Unfortunate Events in to a show for the platform.
In case you didn’t know already, A Series of Unfortunate Events follows orphan siblings Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire as they journey to discover the truth behind their parents’ death, and the nature of a mysterious organisation only known as V.F.D. Meanwhile, their distant relative and all-round nasty fellow Count Olaf is hot on their heels, always employing ridiculous disguises and highly illegal methods in an attempt to obtain the Baudelaire fortune.
In true ASoUE fashion, Snicket told the press upon the announcement of the series: “I can’t believe it. After years of providing top-quality entertainment on demand, Netflix is risking its reputation and its success by associating itself with my dismaying and upsetting books.”, only serving to heighten many millennials’ nostalgia sensibilities.
In 2004, the movie which went on to become something of a cult classic, starring Emily Browning as Violet and Jim Carrey as the villainous Count Olaf, didn’t quite hit the spot for many of the book fans. It only covered the first three books of Snicket’s series, and fiddled with plot details quite a bit in order to make a movie out of what was really only the very beginning of Violet, Klaus and Sunny’s story. The general consensus among fans was that the books needed a television series, rather than a one-off feature, in order to truly explore the length and breadth of Snicket’s highly intricate, immersive world.
Now, Netflix has answered pleas with the announcement of a brand-new series, said to follow the books more closely, with a promise to stay true to the source material. So, here’s everything we know so far about this highly anticipated new addition to Netflix’s roster:
Daniel Handler – A.K.A. Lemony Snicket – is writing for the show.
Daniel Handler, the real and far more mediocre name of occasional participating character / pseudonymous author Lemony Snicket, is on board to write the screenplays, meaning we can expect something far more satisfying than Paramount Pictures’ 2004 effort.
The trailer isn’t really the trailer (or is it?)
In true Snicket fashion, a degree of mystery has surrounded the appearance of a supposed trailer online. The video, which was uploaded to YouTube by one ‘Eleanora Poe’ in July 2015 (who Snicket fans will know as editor of The Daily Punctilio, the fictional newspaper in ASoUE), features plenty of Easter eggs from the books and perfectly captures the style and tone of Snicket’s writing. Watch it below:
As you can see, a helluva lot of detail and effort has gone in to this piece of work, and its professional-looking finish tricked many fans into thinking that it had been released by Netflix as an official tease to the show. Sadly, our hopes were dashed when a Netflix rep told Entertainment Weekly that the trailer had nothing to do with them. However, some critics have pointed out that Netflix is not averse to guerilla marketing tactics, and could have employed a PR firm to release the trailer under the guise of a fan to drum up hype. CNET wrote up a very elaborate analysis of the trailer in an attempt to prove it’s real, but without confirmation from Netflix, we can only hope.
The cast is beginning to take shape.
Some of the key players in ASoUE have already been announced, the most exciting of which is Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Gone Girl) coming on board as major antagonist Count Olaf. We’ve even seen our first glimpses of Harris on set in full Count regalia:
Neil Patrick Harris is almost unrecognisable as Olaf, with his signature monobrow, mad-professor hair and facial prosthetics. I think the make-up team have done an amazing job capturing the sinister character of Olaf in Harris, and the look is very similar to both Jim Carrey’s portrayal from 2004, and the illustrations of artist Brett Helquist, which accompanied all of the books in the series.
Also announced are the actors playing Violet and Klaus: Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes respectively.
Here’s Malina Weissman as a young Kara Zor-El in Warner Bros’ Supergirl TV series:
She also appears in Nine Lives (due out in August) alongside Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Garner; and played a young April O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).
Very little is known about Louis Hynes, as ASoUE is one of his first acting gigs. He appeared in the opera Intermezzo at the Garsinton Opera in 2015.
What’s noticable about the choices for Klaus and Violet is that they both are a lot younger than their counterparts from the 2004 movie. Weissman is only 12 years old, compared to Emily Browning’s 16 when she played the same role in 2004. In The Bad Beginning (the first novel in Snicket’s series), Violet is 14 years old and Klaus is 12. in the final book, called The End, Violet is (we think – although it is never confirmed by Snicket) 16 years old.
Taking on younger actors suggests to me that Netflix is hoping to see this series run for more than one season. The younger the actor is when they start in a role, the more leverage the studio has for using them before they become too ‘old’ for a child’s role. Fingers crossed…
We’ve also had glimpses of the hook-handed man and the person who looks like neither a man nor a woman.
Leaked set photos from shooting in Vancouver have revealed, for definite, two of Olaf’s associates, part of a group referred to as his ‘acting troupe’. The associates are usually involved in Olaf’s hijinks and attempts to get the Baudelaires’ money.
Here’s the hook-handed man, Fernald, portrayed by Usman Ally:
… And here’s who I assume is the The Person Who Looks Like Neither a Man Nor a Woman (Matty Cardarople):
In the books, he / she is described as being grotesquely overweight, very tall, and having a particularly unusual laugh.
For comparison, here they are in an illustration by Brett Helquist from The Bad Beginning:
From left to right in the back row are the two white-faced women, the person who looks like neither a man nor a woman, the bald man with a long nose, and Fernald the hook-handed man. Count Olaf, who you’ll see Neil Patrick Harris imitates very well in his makeup, is seated in the centre, and Klaus, Sunny and Violet all perch in the foreground.
The two white-faced women, played by Jacqueline and Joyce Robbins, another duo from the troupe, have also been captured on set here:
Don’t they look adorable? I love their slippers and matching socks.
It looks like Season 1 will cover at least the first two books in the series
In March it was announced that comedy heavyweight and Indian-American Aasif Mandhi (The Internship, The Dictator) would play Montgomery Montgomery, or the Baudelaires’ Uncle Monty, who in the books is a celebrated herpetologist. He appears in Volume 2, The Reptile Room, and keeps plenty of dangerous reptiles in his home. His casting suggests that the first series will cover at least some of the second book, unless like the movie, the Netflix series decides to play around with chronology. A promising sign, though, plus Monty’s assistant Gustav has also been cast (Luke Camilleri).
Also cast are Patrick Warburton (Officer Joe in Family Guy and the lovable Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove) as the voice of Lemony Snicket, a role which was previously taken on by Jude Law. K. Todd Freeman, who also appeared in 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and TV series Elementary, has been tapped to play Mr Poe.
Excitingly, Joan Cusack will play Justice Strauss, the Baudelaires’ guardian after their parents’ death, and Count Olaf’s neighbour. The character was played by Catherine O’Hara in the film.
Barry Sonnenfeld will direct.
It was reported that cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (a favourite of the Coen Brothers) and Mark Hudis (show creator and previously a showrunner for True Blood) – who were both billed as executive producers alongside Daniel Handler for Netflix’s ASoUE – would be taking the show in a much darker direction than the witty and child-friendly – albeit melancholic and gothic – tone of the novels. Sonnenfeld will direct, but Hudis, who was initially named as showrunner, left the project in January and Netflix have not yet named a replacement despite prinicipal photography already commencing in March 2016.
The show will reportedly be “a lot darker” than the books.
ASoUE are kids’ books, but a darker show will reflect the current fan base, which consists mostly of those in their early twenties, who enjoyed the books when they were kids. Let’s not forget that The Bad Beginning came out in 1999, and the thirteenth book, The End, was released in 2006. Most people who read and loved the books are adults now, and it’s great that Netflix are making a mature show to reflect the age of the fanbase.
We think the first season will be 13 episodes long.
Some outlets are reporting eight episodes, while others say thirteen. I think that thirteen is more likely, considering traditional formats and the typical episode structure of Netflix’s previous original series’ (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black all have thirteen-episode seasons). And it’s reportedly due out in August 2016, while production began for it last month (March 2016). That’s quite a tight turnaround, and I’m hoping there won’t be any delay announcements. Each episode will be 50 minutes long.
As you can, I’m pretty damn excited for Netflix to put out this series. With an already stellar track record for producing compelling and engaging work, I’m hoping that Netflix’s take on Snicket’s masterpiece does it the justice it deserves.
Kirsty Capes – Follow me on Twitter