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Wait, There Was An Idea For A Prequel Movie For The Wire Starring Samuel L. Jackson? Here’s Why It Didn’t Happen

Ask most TV aficionados to choose the best television drama of all time, and you likely will hear the same titles mentioned over and over. Some would pick the downfall of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) that is documented in Breaking Bad. Others might choose the tragedy of Tony Soprano, especially because the Sopranos ending leads to such juicy debate. As good as those shows are, I’m fond of David Simon’s The Wire, which dug deep into the corruption eating away at Baltimore, from the city’s ports to its neighborhoods and school systems. And we recently learned that one member of The Wire’s cast wanted to extend the story through a movie, until it was voted down. 

The Wire is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and as such is available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital and to stream on HBO Max (so update your HBO Max subscriptions and start watching it right now). In honor of the milestone, CinemaBlend interviewed Simon, producer Nina Noble, and key members of the ensemble. It was during that conversation when Wendell Pierce shared his idea for a prequel movie to The Wire, explaining: 

I actually convinced David (Simon) to do a movie. To do the prequel of The Wire, of how Stringer (Bell) and Barksdale got together and took over the Towers from another family. And the head of that other family was going to be Samuel Jackson. And I really had convinced him! And then we did a roundtable somewhere, and Richard Price – I’ll never forget – said, ‘If David does a movie of the fucking Wire, I’ll disown him!’ And David was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ … We were doing a New York Times roundtable, and I was like,’ Damn, thank you, Mr. Price. Mr. Clockers!’ Who HIS book was made into a movie! Oh, I was so mad.

Richard Price is the award-winning novelist and screenwriter best known for The Wanderers, Lush Life, and the 1992 book Clockers, which Spike Lee adapted into a movie in 1995. That story also dealt with criminals caught between the police and the drug slingers, only in Brooklyn and not Baltimore. But Price worked well with David Simon, and contributed to numerous scripts for The Wire over the course of the show’s five seasons. When Price spoke, David Simon listened. 

Now that I know a prequel movie to The Wire was a possibility, I really want to see it. I’d never heard that story before, even though we documented 10 fascinating behind the scenes facts about the HBO program. A while back, we even debated The Wire versus Breaking Bad to finally determine which TV drama belonged on top. Spoiler alert, they are both incredible and need to be watched. 

Too much time probably has passed since The Wire went off the air, and returning for a movie now makes little sense. But it’s interesting to note that The Sopranos creator David Chase did return to his fictional world for the Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, which was well received. So this type of storytelling is possible. Look for more stories from our anniversary conversation with The Wire cast as the summer rolls on.   

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.