How AMC’s chilling TV series The Terror started life as a David Fincher movie

Article by Morgan Jeffery and Cameron K McEwan for DigitalSpy, 23rd March 2018

Published 11 years ago, Dan Simmons’ novel The Terror presents a harrowing account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the Arctic.

Based on true events, the book introduces a supernatural element, with Franklin’s crew stalked across the bleak landscape by a monster.

Winning rave reviews, the book was quickly snapped up for a screen adaptation. A ten-part series is now coming to AMC, with The Crown‘s Jared Harris playing the key role of Captain Francis Crozier.

“David [Kajganich, co-showrunner] has been attached to the project for 12 years,” Harris told Digital Spy. “Initially, I think, he was writing a screenplay for David Fincher, [and] it was gonna be a two-hour movie. He’s gone through so many different iterations of it.”

Ridley Scott and his production company Scott Free, who are behind the TV version, “came in much later” according to Harris. “Ridley was in conversations regarding the architecture of it while they were writing it.”

Ciaran Hinds, who plays John Franklin, described Scott and his team as a “guiding hand” in post-production, while Tobias Menzies, cast as James Fitzjames, added: “[Ridley] had seen the rushes and he was excited by them, and so he was an exciting person to have in our corner and a big part of the support system for [showrunners] David Kajganich and Soo Hugh.”

The Terror author Dan Simmons has commented in the past, on his own website forum, about the long development process – a deal was first signed with Fincher in late 2010. Last year, the writer revealed that extra money was used to “reshoot some SFX” to bring the TV version up to the standards of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Which is where Scott’s Hollywood blockbuster expertise seemingly came into play. “I do know he was heavily involved in the post-production,” Harris said. “He was immensely helpful because there were a lot of problems… green screen technology is changing so quickly. With Ridley’s experience of all that, he was incredibly helpful to them in understanding how to solve those problems.”

Harris hadn’t heard of Simmons’ book, or the real-life expedition, when he was sent the script for the first episode of The Terror. But the quality and originality of that script alone was enough to convince him to sign up.

“It wasn’t a remake, or reboot, or sequel/prequel, it was a completely fresh story which was delightful,” he said. “There’s a lot of elements of genres that it’s dealing with: it’s an adventure story, it’s a survival story, it has a historical basis, and there’s a supernatural, horror genre element to the story.”

This interview was originally published by DigitalSpy. It has been reposted here for posterity.