Truth and Movies

Olivier Assayas is making an Irma Vep miniseries with Alicia Vikander

The HBO show will be loosely based on the French director’s 1996 film, with Vikander in the Maggie Cheung role.

Words

Charles Bramesco

@intothecrevasse

With the twin temptations of expanded budgets and lengthier run times, many high-profile cinematic auteurs have run for the hills of television, and now Olivier Assayas will join their ranks. And all too appropriately, he’ll switch mediums with an adaptation of his own film that delivered an affectionate eulogy of sorts for the French moviemaking industry.

HBO and A24 announced today that they’re developing a limited series “loosely based on” Assayas’ 1996 showbiz satire Irma Vep, with the man himself returning to direct and write the episodes. He’s bringing Alicia Vikander with him, as the star taking the role formerly occupied by the great (and now retired) Maggie Cheung.

In the original, Cheung portrayed herself, an Asian movie star come to France for a remake of Louis Feuillade’s silent film serial Les Vampires. (Mash up the letters of the character “Irma Vep” and see what you get.) The remake casts Vikander as a fictitious figure, an American screen idol named Mira, who travels to France for the same production and likewise finds reality blurring with her scenes as she sinks deeper into her actorly process.

The international subtext here is a bit confounded; Cheung lent the perspective of an outsider to the Western film industry, a dynamic lost with the casting of the Swedish talent Vikander. Moreover, there’s a dissonance between her origins in Europe and her character’s roots as an American, though perhaps that gap will be part of whatever meta-games Assayas is playing.

An inside-baseball look at French cinema commerce with a black streak of humor, Irma Vep makes for unexpected fodder on the small screen, imagining a world where nothing’s off-limits to a miniseries remake. If they can do Black Narcissus and they can do this, who’s to say my The Turin Horse: The Musical: The Series spec script won’t get a green light?

Published 14 Dec 2020

Tags: Alicia Vikander HBO Olivier Assayas

Suggested For You

Olivier Assayas: ‘People are no longer on the side of art’

By David Jenkins

The French maestro on his acerbic new film Non-Fiction and why he’s a software rather than a hardware guy.

In defence of Death to Smoochy – the most absurd kids’ TV satire ever made

By Sophie Yapp

There’s never been a better time to revisit Danny DeVito’s cult comedy.

Six powerful media satires that actually predicted the future

By Harrison Kelly

How the movies forecast everything from celebrity politics to the rise of social media.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design