Over the past two years, we’ve been hearing almost entirely positive news about the many original content projects that Apple has undertaken, ranging from the earliest reports of the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon backed The Morning Show to more recent epic projects such as See and For All Mankind, but amidst all of these successes it was probably inevitable that not all of Apple’s productions were destined for success.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Apple has in fact just canned its first major project, the dark drama Bastards that had been set to feature Richard Gere in the leading role. The new series was an adaptation of the “gritty” and violent Israeli drama, Nevelot for U.S. audiences, and would have been Apple’s answer to Breaking Bad, showing that the company wasn’t afraid to tackle more serious “TV-MA” content, despite the earlier reports that it was shying away from violent and mature themes.
Too Dark for Apple
Still, it appears that the topic of the series and the vision of the writers crossed the line. The series was to tell the tale of a pair of aging Vietnam vets who, disillusioned and disgruntled with the modern generation, end up going on a youth-focused killing spree after a woman they once loved is killed in a car accident, because they believe nobody else understands the sacrifices that those of their generation made.
Bastards was set to star Gere as one of two elderly Vietnam veterans and best friends who find their monotonous lives upended when a woman they both loved 50 years ago is killed by a car. Their lifelong regrets and secrets collide with their resentment of today’s self-absorbed millennials, and the duo then go on a shooting spree.The Hollywood Reporter
The show was set to star Gere in one of the two lead roles (the other one had presumably not yet been cast), and Howard Gordon and Warren Leight would have written and served as showrunners.
After the first two scripts were written, however, Apple stepped in and suggested that it didn’t really like the show’s “tone of vigilance justice” and wanted the writers to focus more on the “larger metaphor of friendship between the two vets.” Gordon, however, insisted on honing in on the darker elements of the series, and Fox 21 executives agreed that this was the direction the show should take.
Apple, which multiple sources note is looking for aspirational programming, wanted to ensure the series was focused on the heart and emotion of the central friendship.The Hollywood Reporter
Leight apparently departed shortly after this, leaving Gordon as the only writer and showrunner, and after Apple and Gordon/Fox 21 couldn’t come to a middle ground, Apple chose to drop out of the project instead, paying a large financial penalty to do so.
Is Bastards Dead for Good?
Apple is out, so Bastards will definitely not be coming to Apple TV+, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the show is gone for good. When Apple originally picked it up late last year, it did so as part of a bidding war that also involved companies like Amazon, FX, and Showtime in order to acquire the rights to adapt the TV series, so other parties were definitely interested in it at the time, and with Apple pulling out, it seems like the producers could put the show back on the market to be picked up by another network or streaming service that’s less queasy about dark and edgy content.
That said, however, after Apple pulled out, Gordon also left his long-standing gig at 20th Century Fox TV to move over to Sony Pictures Television. However, Bastards is apparently not part of that deal, and therefore remains without a home, so right now technically there’s nothing to be picked up at all.
Although Apple has hit numerous other obstacles in putting together its original content — some of its most high-profile shows have seen staff changes, and it’s not the first time a showrunner has departed because their vision was too dark for Apple — this is the first we’ve heard of the company scrapping one of its projects entirely since it put together its new worldwide video and content division.
In fact, the only other video project Apple has scrapped was the dark drama Vital Signs that would have come from Dr. Dre, but it’s arguably not fair to count that one as it was back in the day when Apple’s original content strategy was still floundering, and would have likely been something released under Jimmy Iovine’s Apple Music brand, similar to Carpool Karaoke.
While most of Apple’s other projects are currently moving forward, there is one other show that’s at least been put on hold for now, according to the Reporter — the scripted comedy series You Think It, I’ll Say It, however this is simply a result of a scheduling conflict with star Kristen Wiig, who departed the series to star as the villain in the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel. However, Apple is still “high on the script” and expected to resume production of the show once it finds a new lead.
Despite these setbacks, Apple TV+ remains on track to launch this fall, with reports saying it will go live in November with a slate of at least a half-dozen premium original shows, including The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Dickinson, and See. Apple has also already begun releasing trailers for its new shows to build hype for the service prior to its launch.