Marvel and Fox are launching their first TV collaboration early next year with Legion, as Fargo creator Noah Hawley brings the story of David Haller – a man struggling with mental illness who comes to discover that he’s actually a mutant – to life, and Hawley has been chatting to IGN about his approach to the series, and the casting of Dan Stevens in the lead role.
“I look at the challenge with Legion as the same challenge [as Fargo], which was here’s this iconic world – the Marvel world, the comics, and the X-Men world. And as with Fargo, my job was not to remake the movie, to sort of retell a story that had already been told, but to try to tell a different story with the same effect, the same impact,” states Hawley. “So, you know what was important to me was to treat the material with the utmost respect, and yet at a certain point as a writer, you have to tell your own story. So my approach to the Legion material is similar, which is it’s about a respect for the world, but it’s not about telling stories in that world that the reader is familiar with. It’s about taking that character and really exploring, almost on an existential level, what it’s like… What a television show can do that a movie can’t do is it’s not just a plot delivery device. It’s not about action, it’s about character and theme and as we see in Fargo, you can really play with structure and you can deconstruct the story in a big way. Whereas in a two-hour movie, it’s ‘What’s the problem? Where’s the bad guy? Let’s go get him!’”
“I would be remiss, I feel like, if I didn’t deconstruct this, if I didn’t really try to do something for the genre that feels personal and interesting to me and to really explore if you have a character who for his whole life has believed that he’s schizophrenic, and is now starting to think that he may have these powers, but he doesn’t know and he doesn’t know what’s real – well, that’s the experience the audience should have,” he continues. “To be put into his world is to enter something that’s by definition surreal, because he’s hearing things, he’s seeing things… Are these things real or not real? What can you trust that you’re seeing? And he’s stuck in this moment until he meets a girl [Syd, played by Fargo’s Rachel Keller] and he falls in love and now he’s got something to hope for and that’s the catalyst that pushes everything forward. And, you know, I can never predict the reaction to the work. With Fargo, I could have done my best work and the reaction could have been the complete opposite. I have no control over that, all I can do is tell the best story that I can tell.”
Hawley also spoke about the casting of Downton Abbey and The Guest star Dan Stevens in the lead role of David Haller, stating that: “Dan is really accessible. He’s one of those people that is transparent in the best way to an audience. And yet he’s got the ability to close off, and as you saw in The Guest, he can be a very enigmatic character at the same time. But I think what you need in a leading man is their real skill is that you’re able to see what goes on behind their eyes. I’m not a big fan of having characters say their truths out loud, so you have to show them. But still, the audience has to know what’s going on in his head, and Dan is great for that. He’s also a great romantic lead, which I think we’ve seen, and he has a sense of humor, which is important to me. I did ask him, ‘Are you like a clumsy guy?’ Because any version of this show, there’s gonna be some action, there’s gonna be some of that stuff. And I knew from The Guest that he was a physically capable guy but we definitely put him through his paces and he’s great.”
Since he was a teenager, David has struggled with mental illness. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. But after a strange encounter with a fellow patient, he’s confronted with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might be real.
Legion is set to premiere in early 2017 and stars Dan Stevens (The Guest), Rachel Keller (Fargo), Jean Smart (Fargo), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Jeremie Harris (A Walk Among the Tombstones), Amber Midthunder (Hell or High Water), Katie Aselton (The League) and Bill Irwin (Interstellar). X-Men cinematic universe veterans Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg are all on board to executive produce along with Marvel’s Jeph Loeb, Jim Chory and John Cameron.
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