Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel (center) star in AMC's new The Prisoner.
Many recall The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan's stylish 1967 British series, a cult hit about a man trapped for unknown reasons in a picturesque town called The Village and identified only as Number Six. He can't figure out why he's there or how to escape.
American Movie Classics has shot a six-hour miniseries re-imagining of The Prisoner for modern-day audiences. One of the biggest changes in this re-imagining is that Six is now American, played by Jim Caviezel.
"I don't think it makes any difference," director Nick Hurran said in a press conference Jan. 8 in Universal City, Calif. "It's a mixed-nationality cast. It's a very global Village. I think we accept that now. We're so used to a society being of every culture, every race, that it would have been quite parochial to go and do a British thing."
Patrick McGoohan (left) created and starred in the original Prisoner.
This Village is set in the middle of a desert, as opposed to the seaside Village of the original. "Epic is absolutely the right word," Hurran said. "The vistas that this prison gives, setting it in the Namibian desert or the nonspecific desert that we don't know where it is, the character Six runs away to get free, to escape, and just keeps running and keeps running, and there is more sand than I have ever seen in my life. It gets to places you never knew you had."
The desert turned out to be a production nuisance when the filmmakers had to re-create location shoots in Namibia. The majority of production was based in Cape Town, South Africa. "My overriding memory of this production is sand, no matter where we were," Hurran said. "It returned, even in South Africa, when we had to try and re-create some locations to make them look like they were still in the Village. We needed to import sand and carefully, painstakingly lay it across the streets of Cape Town. Unfortunately, Cape Town's very windy, and the wind certainly blew and blew all of the carefully laid sand about 100 meters into front yards and people's letterboxes. So sand remained with us forever."
Die-hard fans of the original Prisoner will notice some familiar tidbits. "There are a number of, of course, homages that the keen eye will see in what's said and what's worn, in pieces of architecture," Hurran said. "Of course, there are a number of salutes that we made to the fantastic piece that was created. I think it would be a shame to take it to the next generation and not acknowledge what an extraordinary piece of work that was. [It's] enigmatic, I think slightly less surreal, but it is as bizarre, in a good way."
The Prisoner airs in November on AMC.