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Despite having rose to prominence on the big screen during the 1980s, over the last two decades acclaimed actor Kiefer Sutherland has enjoyeded considerable success in the world of television through his association with such popular shows as 24 and Designated Survivor. With the latter having been cancelled for a second time in July, the actor has reportedly been in talks to play one of two lead roles in an upcoming reboot of the popular 1960s show The Fugitive. This will mark Sutherland’s fourth television series following the short-lived Touch, which ran for two seasons from 2012 but was not renewed for another season following a decline in ratings.
Created by Roy Huggins, previously known for the western series Maverick, The Fugitive made its debut ABC in September 1963 and became a critical and commercial hit, telling the story of a doctor who is accused of murdering his wife and is forced to go on the run after escaping from custody. Determined to track down the real culprit and clear his name, Dr. Richard Kimble is hunted down by tenacious lawman Philip Gerard. The show ran for a total of a hundred and twenty episodes, its two-part finale finally airing on 28 August 1967. ‘It was a very smart show,’ claimed its director Robert Butler. ‘Smart in the gimmick, the device, the story, the character, the way the various hours could be presented and unfold.’
Almost thirty years later the story received a modern-day reworking from action director Andrew Davis, whose prior work in the genre had included the Steven Seagal vehicles Nico (aka Above the Law) and Under Siege. Produced for approximately $44m and distributed by Warner Bros. in the summer of 1993, The Fugitive starred Harrison Ford in the role of Kimble as he narrowly escapes a train crash and is pursued by U.S. Marshal Tommy Lee Jones. The movie would become a surprise hit at the box office and earned Jones an Academy Award for his performance, while critics would praise both the tight screenplay from David Twohy and Jeb Stuart and its two leads.
Davis had already made a name for himself within the action genre with the 1985 Chuck Norris flick Code of Silence and the Gene Hackman thriller The Package, yet he was clearly reluctant to embrace the title of ‘action movie director.’ In an interview with the New York Times prior to the release of Under Siege he admitted, ‘I got pegged as this action guy, this guy who could do great stunts…The basic underpinnings don’t have any soul or value. They’re totally incredible so you don’t believe them. They’re dumb stories…People want to see action. Life is boring for a lot of people and they want to be excited.’
Now Variety have announced that Quibi, the mobile video platform set for launch in 2020, will be developing a new version of The Fugitive that, drawing parallels to Sutherland’s prior work on 24, will use a terrorist act as the catalyst for the action. ‘When a bomb rips through the Los Angeles subway train he’s riding on, blue-collar Mike Ferro just wants to make sure his wife Allison and ten-year-old daughter Pearl are safe,’ reveals the synopsis. ‘But the faulty evidence on the ground and ‘tweet-now, confirm-later’ journalism paint a nightmarish picture: it looks to all the world that Mike was responsible for the heinous act. Wrongfully and very publicly accused, Mike must prove his innocence by uncovering the real perpetrator, before the legendary cop heading the investigation can apprehend him.’
With Ferro replacing Kimble as the show’s protagonist, perhaps to make an ‘everyman’ hero more relatable to the public than that of a doctor, the role of the protagonist will be played by Kentucky-born Boyd Holbrook, whose prior credits have included such diverse projects as Gone Girl, Narcos and Logan. Sutherland, meanwhile, will portray the authority figure responsible for bringing him to justice. Throughout his thirty-five-year career Sutherland has regularly been cast as lawmen, either as a cop in Renegades, FBI agent in Flashback or a Secret Service agent in The Sentinel. Arguably his most famous role, though, was as a counter terrorist agent in the long-running small screen thriller 24.
Despite the acclaim and accolades that both the show and its star would receive during its initial nine-year-run, it would regularly encounter criticism due to its supposed advocating of torture and its negative portrayal of Muslims. ‘My politics lean to the left, so how the show was ever perceived as right-wing is beyond me. We were never advocating torture,’ he told inews. ‘Look, it was a fucking TV show: take out those elements and you’ve got nothing. I was shocked because on the other channel there was this guy who was a serial killer but he was killing the right people. It was just a TV show, not us articulating what we thought the political agenda should be.’
The Fugitive, which much like the 1993 motion picture will be developed in association with Warner Bros., will see Sutherland reunite with director Stephen Hopkins for the first time in seventeen years. Having helmed many of the early episodes of 24 and thus being an integral part in the aesthetic of the show, Hopkins had already gained a cult following among genre fans for his prior work on A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Predator 2 and the underrated urban thriller Judgment Night. 24 would not be his first foray into the world of terrorism, as a decade earlier he had directed the thriller Blown Away, which saw bomb disposal expert Jeff Bridges attempting to stop escaped convict and terrorist Tommy Lee Jones.
While there are few details regarding The Fugitive available at this time Variety commented on the expanding future of Quibi, stating that, ‘The Jeffrey Katzenberg-founded company is attracting A-list talent across the board and has announced a slew of projects including Steven Spielberg’s After Dark, a horror series users will be able to watch only between sundown and sunrise local time. Other partners include Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Sam Raimi, Jason Blum, Steven Soderbergh, Catherine Hardwick, Anna Kendrick, Doug Liman, Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media. Quibi also has ordered shows featuring Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, Don Cheadle and Idris Elba as well as a remake of MTV’s Punk’d.’