Actors frequently move from television to film, cutting their teeth on the small screen before moving onto bigger things on the silver screen. It’s happened with everybody from George Clooney to Pierce Brosnan to Will Smith. Far rarer is the big name actor switching to take a starring role in television. Nevertheless, Jason Statham of Transporter and Fast and the Furious franchise fame has committed to starring in the upcoming Viva La Madness.
Although Viva La Madness has yet to secure a network, the show will be an drama with hour-long episodes based upon the book by author J. J. Connolly. In addition to starring, Statham will co-executive produce the series with Steven Chasman, with whom he owns the rights. The hero thus far remains nameless, but Deadline reports that the anonymous protagonist will be joined by London gangsters called Sonny King and Roy “Twitchy” Burns.
There can be little doubt that the executive producer credit was a motivator in Jason Statham’s decision to make the jump to television, but he does seem to be a true fan of the source material, saying:
The way J.J. writes is so on the ball and authentic its hard to let any of it go. Trying to lose characters or shave down scenes every other page didn’t work, we wanted it all. The best place was a 10-hour plus show that lets you fully disappear into Connolly’s world.
Statham’s approach toward adapting page-to-screen is sure to be welcome to fans of the books. Adaptations are notorious for cutting and rewriting to fit all of the big twists into a finite space of time, and Statham’s dedication to the book and its author should bring about a show that's faithful to the source material. Published in 2011, the novel of Viva La Madness was a sequel to 2004’s Layer Cake. Neither book ever made particularly huge waves in the American literary market, but both were hugely successful across the pond in Great Britain. Layer Cake was adapted into a movie in 2005 that featured Daniel Craig in the lead role.
Even though there’s no indication yet as to which network will pick up Viva La Madness, Jason Statham’s status as a movie star certainly won’t hurt in the hunt for a home for the show. But the pitch of a 10+ hour series, as well as Statham’s reputation for playing violent characters, mean that Viva La Madness will likely settle in on cable.
Statham earlier this year had been rumored to consider taking on a role in the Netflix adaptation of Daredevil, so the news of him moving away from film for a television series is not entirely surprising. It is, however, quite welcome, and Jason Statham’s Viva La Madness has the potential to bring ten weeks of cinematic action to the small screen.