Park Chan-wook has found his next TV project. The filmmaker behind Oldboy and The Handmaiden ventured into TV for the first time for the John le Carré series Little Drummer Girl in 2018, and will be bringing another espionage story to to the screen with A24’s TV adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer.
A24, Park Chan-wook, and post-Vietnam War espionage? It’s a match made in heaven for the Sympathizer TV series, which is being developed for the small screen by A24 and Rhombus Media. Vietnamese-American author Viet Thanh Nguyen made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.
“Thrilled to finally announce that [A24] has optioned THE SYMPATHIZER for TV, with director Park Chan-wook, whose films include THE HANDMAIDEN. His OLDBOY was a big influence on THE SYMPATHIZER, and I can’t imagine a better person to direct this TV adaptation with [Rhombus Media]!” Nguyen said, adding cheekily, “I hope Park Chan-wook, who did wonders with the octopus in OLDBOY, will be equally imaginative with the squid in THE SYMPATHIZER …”
Thrilled to finally announce that @A24 has optioned THE SYMPATHIZER for TV, with director Park Chan-wook, whose films include THE HANDMAIDEN. His OLDBOY was a big influence on THE SYMPATHIZER, and I can't imagine a better person to direct this TV adaptation with @rhombusmedia!
— Viet Thanh Nguyen (@viet_t_nguyen) April 7, 2021
Published in 2015 to near-universal acclaim, The Sympathizer follows an unnamed half-French, half-Vietnamese man who serves as a spy for Community forces during and after the Vietnam War. But in the aftermath of the war, he finds himself exiled to Los Angeles, and finds himself torn between his former loyalties and his newfound life in America.
Here is the synopsis for The Sympathizer (via GoodReads):
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause.
The Sympathizer, which is the first to win both the Edgar Award and the Pulitzer Prize in the same year, is a phenomenal read that operates as both gripping spy novel and subversive immigrant tale. There probably isn’t a more fitting director to take on the TV adaptation than Park, who has clearly found a passion for espionage stories rooted in imperialist angst lately, with The Handmaiden and Little Drummer Girl. And he’s not afraid to get weird and horny, as Nguyen hinted with his allusion to the infamous squid scene.
I couldn’t be more stoked to see The Sympathizer brought to the screen — Nguyen, for whom The Sympathizer was his debut novel, has become an idol of sort in the Vietnamese diaspora community. He’s the first Vietnamese author to win the Pulitzer and has become a spokesperson for better Vietnamese representation in the media; plus you know, he can write real good.
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