It’s unfortunately not a film adaptation of Tom Reiss’ novel, “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.” Although I do wonder, given that “Underground’s” Joe Pokaski writing it, whether there actually might be consideration for a black/bi-racial actor to play the lead role in this version of the famed tale.
Although since it’s being reimagined as a present-day story, anything could happen in terms of casting. They could go in any direction with the lead. They don’t have to be faithful to any historical or past fictitious account.
Three years ago, David Goyer signed on to direct another adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” for Constantin Films, who were responsible for the *ultra-modern* spin on another Dumas tome, “The Three Musketeers,” and who said that they intended to approach the new adaptation of “The Count Of Monte Cristo” in very much the same way… unfortunately – like a graphic novel.
That project never happened.
Skip ahead to news today that Warner Bros and Safehouse Pictures have brought on Joe Pokaski to write and William Eubank to direct a “contemporary retelling” of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” set in the “criminal underworld.”
No other details are available at this time.
Recalling my post on Reiss’ novel, the life of the subject of that book, Alexandre Dumas, the father (aka The Black Count), was the stuff of legends, and became fodder for his son’s novels. “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” for example, were, in part, based on Dumas, the father’s real-life story; his ending just wasn’t as happy as it was for the fictional count in the 2002 film that most are probably familiar with, starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce (the last time Dumas, the son’s novel was adapted. There’ve been several film adaptations of the novel).
Dumas, the father, The Black Count, was born in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) in 1762, the son of a black slave woman and a rebel French aristocrat. He was briefly sold into slavery but eventually made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. He rose up through the ranks rather quickly, and would eventually command armies at the height of the French Revolution, in audacious campaigns across Europe and the Middle East. He eventually became the highest-ranking black leader in a *modern* white society, at that time. By 32 years old, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the French army, which is the equivalent of a four-star general here in the USA.
The latter years of his life were unfortunately spent in captivity, languishing for years in an enemy dungeon (like the fictional Count Of Monte Cristo), before he would be released, all his accomplishments virtually forgotten, eventually dying of an incurable illness at just 43, in poverty, leaving a wife and 3 children – one of them being Alexandre Dumas, the son, who would go on to become the prolific and notable author. Napoleon went to extraordinary lengths to completely bury the memory of Alex Dumas, The Black Count, ensuring that he was all-but forgotten, until recent memory.
Of course, we here at S&A are most interested in the casting of any project related to either Alexandre Dumas (father or son).
Tom Reiss’ book itself is both a riveting true action/adventure story of this one man’s life, as well as a peek into what was essentially the modern world’s first multi-racial society. Sadly a film (whether scripted narrative or documentary) has never been made on The Black Count, Alexandre Dumas, the father, and I certainly won’t hold my breath.
I should note that, in 2014, it was announced that Sony Pictures set Cary Fukunaga to adapt and direct an adaptation of Reiss’ novel; and also Spike TV put in development a “The Count of Monte Cristo” TV serial project with “a contemporary and high-octane action and political twist,” they said at the time.
No word on where each project stands. Although Fukunaga has been busy.
In addition, British director Peter Greenaway also announced last year that he was preparing to shoot a film about The Black Count’s son.
Greenaway’s film will focus on Dumas’ trip across Russia, starting in 1858, where he lived for 4 years, according to the Timchenko Charity Foundation, which is backing the project.
The film, to be titled “Volga,” will be based on a diary Dumas kept of his trips across Russia, published in “Adventures in Czarist Russia, or From Paris to Astrakhan,” in which he documented observations of contemporary life, as well as the history of the 15 cities he visited.
“It’s an ambitious project to create a 150-minute film showing the multinational, multi-confessional and multi-ethnic character of the Volga region,” Greenaway said in a press statement, adding, “It’s a project where the past and the future, authentic culture and art, fiction and propaganda – everything is intertwined, where different religions – Christianity, Buddhism and Islam – peacefully co-exist. We will look for documentary shots that reveal life in the cities and villages, the history of trade fairs, Russian hospitality, images of corruption and political intrigue, of fine arts, religion, hunting, family habits, interiors and much other. The film is about more than Dumas describes in his book.”
A 2017 release date was previously eyed.
In the meantime, let’s wait and see what we learn from the Pokaski/WB contemporary-set project. As I said at the start, since the Count tale is being reimagined as a present-day story, anything could happen in terms of casting. They could go in any direction with the lead. They don’t have to be faithful to any historical or past fictitious accounts.