In an amusing intra-company maneuver, a TV series that was to be produced by Paramount is now being handed to the international division of Paramount+. Their streaming service is producing a straight to series prequel to Sexy Beast, the acclaimed 2000 crime thriller starring Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. While the reasoning for the show to switch from one arm of the Paramount company to another is unclear, it could have something to do with the hit Taylor Sheridan show Yellowstone being the sole remaining scripted show on the network, and all the other many hit Taylor Sheridan shows being on Paramount+. It appears that at least for the moment, Paramount is upping its streaming game to compete with the three-headed hydra of Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, so shows like Sexy Beast will actually get a shot.
Though the film version of Sexy Beast was only a minor box office success on its release in 2000, it was immediately critically acclaimed. Ben Kingsley was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Don Logan, a brutal, profane British gangster tasked by his boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) to convince retired criminal Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) to return to London for a bank heist. It upended many tropes of the crime genre, focusing the majority of the plot on the usually brief sequence in which a figure from the past enlists the protagonist for “one last job.” The bank robbery is practically an afterthought in Sexy Beast, relegated to a few minutes of underwater drilling and some vague threats from McShane. Instead, most of the film is the diminutive, yet terrifying Kingsley threatening the much larger Winstone with greater degrees of mania, until it resembles something more like a stalker horror film than a crime caper.
The three leads of Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone and Ian McShane are all legends of British stage, screen and TV who have successfully transitioned into America. Kingsley most recently reprised his role as Iron Man 3’s Trevor Slattery (ie the ersatz Mandarin) in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and there have been persistent rumors of a Disney+ prequel series starring the buffoonish British actor character. He is also set to star as Salvador Dali in an upcoming film. Winstone starred as the villain of Scarlett Johannesson’s Black Widow film for his apparent legal obligation for all British actors to appear in the MCU eventually. McShane has yet to get around to that, but is best known to American audiences as the verbose Old West crime boss Al Swearengen in HBO’s Deadwood, and as the proprietor of the assassin hotel The Continental in the John Wick series of films. As you might expect, a John Wick prequel series is currently in development.
This is certainly a boom time for prequel series, and since Paramount+ is swelling its roster of shows with any number of Taylor Sheridan shows, it is only fair that Sexy Beast should get a shot. It will be interesting to see how they adapt the highly stylized darkness of the original film for streaming TV, but it will doubtlessly be interesting.