The 1975 Sydney Pollack film “Three Days of the Condor,” which starred Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway and Max von Sydow, remains a masterful thriller decades later. While loosely based on the James Grady novel “Six Days of the Condor,” however, Pollack’s movie serves as the primary inspiration for the new television adaptation by AT&T Audience Network, “Condor.”
At the center of Todd Katzberg and Jason Smilovic’s modern take on the spy classic is English-Irish actor Max Irons, who plays Joe Turner, a CIA analyst who goes on the run after everyone else in his office is murdered by assassins. The “Condor” star has never lead a major American film or television production, but as Irons tells Metro, he was up for the challenge, especially since the showrunners surrounded him with an ensemble cast that includes William Hurt, Mira Sorvino and Brendan Fraser.
“When I signed onto this, I think I was the first. You’re always over the moon and very excited, but you’re always like, ‘Oh god. I wonder what the cast is going to be like? Is it going to be good?” says Irons. “Then William Hurt signed on. He’s such an incredible actor. He’s one of these guys who has this fierce muscularity that can terrify a person, but he also has this deep, profound sensitivity, and he can do them both at once.”
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Irons has trouble running out of nice things to say about Sorvino, Fraser and Bob Balaban, who round out the show’s “top brass,” so to speak. The same goes for Leem Lubany, the Palestinian-Israeli actress who plays Gabrielle Joubert, one of the assassins. Max von Sydow played the part in Pollack’s film, but Katzburg and Smilovic decided to swap the gender.
They also updated the role of Kathy Hale, which Dunaway played in the 1975 movie. Instead of a random woman Turner encounters and forces to help him, Katherine Cunningham’s Hale often engenders far more sympathy than her Tinder date-turned-captor.
“This goes back to Jason and Todd’s ability to write with honest human complexity. What I like about Joe is, when you first meet him he has rock-solid principles,” Irons explains. “After meeting Kathy, he has to bend and then finally break a lot of these principles. It’s this interesting human dynamic operating under extraordinary circumstances.”
Katzberg and Smilovic’s approach to the story, which benefits from the extra time and space that TV affords, is primarily what drew Irons to “Condor” in the first place.
“A lot TV shows that occupy this space - thriller meets politics - and they’re often presented simplistically. They present the villain and the good guy, these two duke it out over the course of 10 episodes, and ultimately the good guy prevails,” he says. “This particular show, however, pays careful attention to never being politically judgemental either way. The writers try to present a balanced argument for a rather complex set of issues. They invite the audience to draw their own conclusions, instead of giving them all the answers.”
“Condor” premieres Wednesday, June 6 at 10 p.m. on the AT&T Audience Network.