If you “Watched For The Sign of The Saint” , your patience has paid off. He’s back! Ian Dickerson, the world’s authority on Simon Templar, shares some of the exciting news.
If there’s one literary character who’s influenced me more than any other, it’s The Saint. Hailed as “The Robin Hood of Modern Crime,” this swashbuckling hero was dreamed up by author Leslie Charteris in 1928, and has served as inspiration for pretty much every action hero ever since (most notably James Bond.)
Simon Templar last appeared on the silver screen in a pretty horrible feature film starring Val Kilmer; with a script that had only the most tenuous links to the character’s storied history.
Since then, the world’s been virtually Saint-less – but things are about to change.
Because after eight years of development hell, The Saint is finally set to return to our screens this year, in a made-for-TV movie/pilot that just finished filming in Los Angeles and Switzerland.
One of the men who’s been pivotal to The Saint’s triumphant return to television is Ian Dickerson – the world authority on Simon Templar; and for decades the staunchest defender of the Saintly brand, (and its loudest advocate.)
Ian is a truly warm and wonderful guy, and the most passionate and dedicated advocate of The Saint that you could possibly hope for. A writer, producer and director, he got to know Leslie Charteris as a teenager (during Charteris’ golden years) and that friendship blossomed into Ian becoming the world’s foremost authority on The Saint.
He’s already helped write, produce and direct a series of documentaries about the making of The Saint and its sequel, Return of the Saint – and is also the author of the authoritative lexicon The Saint on TV, featuring stories, anecdotes and adventures from all of Simon Templar’s small-screen exploits.
To all intents and purposes, Ian lives and breathes The Saint – the true epitome of a man with a “furled umbrella and secret, buccaneering dreams.”
But, as an even truer testament to the trust Leslie Charteris placed in him to maintain the integrity of his legacy, Ian goes a step further by reaching out to all The Saint’s supporters and fans – including hapless ginger ones like myself – to give them personal insight into The Saint’s world.
The fact that he took the time to answer my questions – even while jetting between Los Angeles and Switzerland with the film crew – indicates just what a dedication Ian has to fans of The Saint; and I couldn’t be more honored to consider him an (online) friend as a result:
Ian – Can you explain in what form Simon Templar is returning, and when?
2013 will indeed see the return of the Saint. As I write we’re just finishing up principal photography on a one hour TV pilot for a new TV series.
Simon Templar is played by Adam Rayner, Patricia Holm by Eliza Dushku, Inspector Fernack by Enrique Muciano and our director is Simon West (who’s directed films such as Con Air and The Expendables 2).
Obviously the idea is to try and get a series commission from this but we won’t know if how likely this is until sometime in the Spring.
At the end of next month Mulholland Books (a UK based imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) begin republishing thirty-five Saint books both in print and in digital; we’ll be doing four or five titles every couple of months.
We have agreed a US republishing deal but we’re still working out the details on that so I can’t say too much. And we’ve also agreed an audiobook deal but again, we’re still trying to sort out the details however I’m hopeful we’ll be listening to the first of those sometime later this year.
You are intimately involved in the production of this new Saint story. What’s your exact role been? And how have you made sure it stays true to Leslie Charteris’ vision?
I seem to have been christened a creative consultant on the TV pilot, though that may change to a consulting producer.
To explain my role needs a bit of background; just over eight years ago William J. MacDonald and Geoffrey Moore teamed up to try and get the Saint back on TV.
That project went through several iterations (most notably with James Purefoy attached as the Saint) but they could never quite get it into production. Both those guys were kind enough to keep me in the loop on so many aspects of that saga; they seemed to think I could add value to the creative process.
When Brad Krevoy came on board eighteen months or so ago he wanted to produce a Saint that not only updated the character for the 21st century but remained loyal to the character’s original creative vision and philosophies. And one reason why this is only now getting into production is because Brad has been quite determined to maintain that creative independence; over the years we’ve had numerous approaches to get the Saint back on TV but it’s been quickly clear that people wanted the brand but not necessarily the character.
So I guess you could say that my role is to ensure that people who know the character will find some degree of familiarity in the show.
One aspect of my job has been to ensure that some of the wackier ideas—such as the one where Patricia Holm would have become an English upper class lesbian, or the one where Teal would become Claudette—quickly bite the dust.
However you can’t avoid the fact that every Saint TV show or movie or radio show or indeed even comic strip has reinvented the character for the times. Even Charteris did it—the literary Saint of the 1930s is notably different to the literary Saint of the 1950s and 60s—it’s one of the reasons why the character has survived so long.
So our job is actually quite tricky; we’ve got to come up with a Saint that harks back to the original literary character as well as meets the expectations of people who are expecting a remake of any of the TV incarnations.
Adam Rayner is taking the role of the inimitable Simon Templar. What do you make of this casting choice?
Well I sat in on his audition, so naturally I think he’s a wonderful choice! It’s actually quite a tough job, for not only do you have to find an actor who meets the requirements of the role but someone who will appeal to TV networks around the world, and they have their own set of limitations.
This thing has been so many years in the making that I’ve become a resolute cynic and a hardened critic. I was nervous of Adam’s casting, heck, I was nervous of casting anyone in the role. It is a big pair of shoes to fill, even though the Saint has been retired for many years.
I always remember Bob Baker telling me how nervous he was over casting Roger Moore as the Saint until he saw the first day’s footage. And now I know how he felt. I’ve seen the dailies and I’m delighted to say that Adam is superb in the role. He nails every aspect of the character, including the humor. I can’t wait to see the final show and I can’t wait for you all to see the final show.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone if I confess to trying to write my own Saint novel. Whether it’ll ever see the light of day is another discussion, for I’m my own worst critic. But for the last few weeks when I’ve sat down to write it, the Saint in my head is not the Saint borne of many years reading and rereading the books, but it’s Adam.
I really have to praise Sari Knight and Mandy Sherman our casting directors; getting Enrique Murciano as Fernack was a stroke of genius, and the other casting is just magnificent. We really have been blessed with a great cast and crew
What with Ponzi Schemes and corrupt bankers hitting the headlines, it seems like The Saint’s brand of justice is needed today more than ever. In what way does the new storyline reflect our modern world?
One of the reasons we’ve been working on this for so long is because we’re utterly convinced that there’s a place in the 21st century for someone like the Saint.
Corrupt bankers and politicians seem to be everywhere at the moment. With the heavy emphasis on media and communication nowadays a quick google will show you a large number of stories of injustice just crying out for a Saint. Much like Leslie did, we’re looking to take inspiration from real life and then add a dash of creative license.
I’ve heard rumors that Roger Moore, Ian Ogilvy and even the old Volvo P1800 make cameos – can you share any details?
Not really, not without giving the plot away. But of those three probably only the 1800 qualifies as a cameo role, the other two might well be something more. Or Moore even.
Where does the new Saint take the bulk of his inspiration from? Leslie’s original books, or the classic 1960s TV series?
The books definitely the books. I’ve been taking every opportunity to remind people that this is not a remake of a 1960s TV show, this is a reimagining—much as I hate that term—of a long standing literary character. But we have to meet the expectations of people who only know the Saint from the TV shows, so as I’ve said, it’s a tricky balancing job.
Is this the Renaissance of the The Saint? Can we expect Simon to return in literary format as well?
I couldn’t possibly comment. But if you can imagine me vigorously nodding my head as I type this you might get an answer…
Thanks so much to Ian for taking the time to answer these questions – not an inconsequential task, given the fact that he’s been flying back and forth across the channel with the production crew.
But based on the details Ian shared, I can’t wait to see the new incarnation of The Saint.
I just hope the most magical elements of the books – specifically, Simon’s easy smile and mocking wit – make it into the script. Fortunately, with somebody like Ian guiding the creative process, I think the legacy of Leslie Charteris is in good hands.
- For more details of The Saint’s 2013 pilot, including great shots of production taken by Ian and other crew members, make sure to join their Facebook group.