The Fox TV remake of Luther, one of the most brilliant and acclaimed British crime drama series of the past couple of decades, is a “go.” Fox has already promised creator Neil Cross, who also created the BBC original Luther series, that at least the pilot for an American version of Luther will hit the airwaves.
But even with same creative force behind the Fox version of Luther, the remake faces one serious hurdle. The BBC series star Idris Elba is believed to have no interest in repeating the lead role that he played for three seasons of the British Luther.
Elba will act as co-executive producer on the Fox Luther remake but the 42-year-old Londoner put his stamp so indelibly on the role that a Luther without Elba seems inconceivable.
Nonetheless, Fox has given Cross and Elba a “put pilot” agreement for the pilot episode of its own Luther series, meaning that the network has already committed to airing the pilot, sight unseen. In a put pilot deal, if a network backs out and fails to air a pilot, the network must pay the producers a financial penalty.
In the case of the Fox Luther deal, that penalty is reported to top $1 million.
Idris Elba is perhaps best known to American viewers as the ambitious Baltimore drug kingpin Russell “Stringer” Bell in the former HBO series The Wire, another brilliant crime drama that has been widely hailed as “the greatest TV show ever.”
But while his character in The Wire was a criminal — albeit one who desperately sought legitimacy — in the character of John Luther, Elba portrayed a master lawman. But what made the series riveting was the character study of Detective John Luther, whose immersion in sordid homicide investigations leads to the continuing destruction of his personal life and relationships, as well as his own sanity.
Finding an actor to match Elba’s compelling and critically acclaimed performance marks the first and perhaps most significant challenge facing the producers of the U.S. television Luther.
Another challenge, as with American network TV remakes of all British series, will be maintaining the quality of the writing over the much longer American TV seasons. The BBC’s Luther totaled just 14 episodes in its three seasons.
A typical American TV season runs anywhere from 13 to 24 episodes.
Cross also wrote the recent hit horror movie Mama for Universal Pictures, and has said that he plans to write and produce a Luther feature film. Whether the Fox TV remake of Luther puts an end to those plans is not yet clear.