Amazon has officially given the greenlight to their dark ‘neo-Victorian fantasy-noir’ series, Carnival Row, created by Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim, Clash of the Titans) based on a screenplay he wrote while a film student called A Killing on Carnival Row. Executive poducer René Echevarria (Teen Wolf, The 4400) will serve as writer and show runner while Paul McGuigan (Luke Cage, Sherlock) will direct.
The original plot was set in a futuristic city reminiscent of Victorian London where humans live alongside fairies and other mythical creatures. The plot focuses on a neighborhood called Carnival Row, inhabited by faeries working in brothels whom are being stalked by a killer who cuts off their wings and leaves telltale puncture wounds in their necks.
Here’s the official new synopsis:
“Carnival Row is a fantasy-noir set in a neo-Victorian city. Mythical creatures fleeing their war-torn homeland have gathered in the city, and tensions are simmering between citizens and the growing immigrant population. We follow the investigation of a string of unsolved murders which are eating away at whatever uneasy peace still exists.”
Back in 2015, Guillermo Del Toro was intending to direct the pilot from a script he was co-writing with Beacham and Echevarria in between Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim: Uprising (when he was still onboard to write and direct). According to the new report, it seems he is no longer involved with the project.
Here’s what the director said then about the project:
“We tried to do it for so long as a film that the rights reverted back to Travis as a basic story. And I’ve always talked about it to anyone that would listen. We always had too many ideas to fit into the feature. We can now really focus on the world and the politics of what it is to be a magical being in Victorian steampunk atmosphere where you are seen as a lesser being.”
Beacham recently expanded on the entire history of the project via an Instagram post, which you can read below:
“I was a 2nd-year film student when I had the idea. We’d been talking about film noir in class. And I’d just gotten back from trip to England where I caught a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream and taken a Jack the Ripper walking tour. So I started to imagine this Dickensian fantasy city, and wrote a short student film about a police inspector who shows up at a brothel where this faerie prostitute has been un-winged and murdered. It was ambitious, but I was hell-bent to figure out a way to film it. I wrangled some friends. Found a production designer. Went driving around at night after class and found like the only cobblestone street in Winston-Salem.”
After the school rejected the pitch, my screenwriting advisor convinced me to turn it into a feature. I didn’t want to at first. I was heartbroken. I’d wanted to make it. But he was insistent and the idea wouldn’t go away. I never thought of selling it at that point. It was just this fun little thing I was writing. But it found its way to LA via an alum interning at a production company. And in the winter of my graduating year, I get this call in my dorm room. The alum tells me, “I can’t say much. But you should know — you’re about to start getting phone calls.” And my life was never the same after that. By the same time the following year, the script, A Killing on Carnival Row, had been bought by New Line. I had reps. I had meetings on backlots. I was on lists of writers to watch. I was turning away jobs. It was amazing. But the script sat unproduced for over a decade. I had to learn to think of Carnival Row as a sacrificial lamb. The thing I loved very intensely once, and had to let go of.”
Del Toro’s uninvolvment is unfortunate, as he’s demonstrated an affinity for telling stories steeped in dark fantasy themes and settings, such as Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. But Beacham’s history and passion for this project is enough to get me excited. The premise honestly sounds like Penny Dreadful meets From Hell. The series also has some glaring similarities to Netflix’s upcoming film Bright from writer Max Landis (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, American Ultra) and director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch), which features Will Smith as an LAPD officer partnered with an Orc cop in a world where fairies, elves, trolls and other mythical creatures exist.
It’ll be interesting to see which of these projects better tells this type of story and winds up on top.