The Famous Five | Nicolas Winding Refn adaptation is inspired by Quadrophenia

Nicolas Winding Refn adapts The Famous Five
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Maverick director Nicolas Winding Refn is busy adapting Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five books for the BBC – and he’s looked at Quadrophenia for inspiration.

It was announced in June that Nicolas Winding Refn – the maverick director of such full-blooded films as Pusher, Drive and Only God Forgives – is to head up a new adaptation of Enid Blyton’s series of children’s books, The Famous Five. 

Commissioned by the BBC, the series will take in three 90-minute episodes and is co-created by Matthew Read, who wrote Refn’s Valhalla Rising and produced Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon. If The Famous Five sounds like an unusual choice for the director-producer duo, then they’re keen to point out that their series will retain the family-friendly adventure spirit of Blyton’s much-loved books.

“I’ve always liked the concept of not really wanting to be an adult; staying in ‘adventure land’ forever,” Winding Refn says in a new interview with Deadline. “The Famous Five feels like one of the very few things that you literally hand down the generations.”

Winding Refn also adds, reassuringly, “I’m finally making something that my kids could actually watch.”

Elsewhere, Winding Refn and Read talk about retaining the stories’ tone while making them “relevant for a modern audience”, how they’re keen to inject some of the director’s stylised ‘fantastique’ filmmaking flair, and also reveal a surprising influence: the 1979 mod drama, Quadrophenia, adapted from The Who’s rock opera.

Specifically, Winding Refn looked to Quadrophenia as a reference for his interpretation of George, the leader of the Famous Five gang and the focal point for the new three-part series.

“The UK has such a countercultural significance,” said Winding Refn. “At that time [when Quadrophenia was released], touching upon gender, class structure and all those things gave us a lot of material that today you can really develop into a clearer direction. Maybe further in the past this was more hidden in the shadows but here there was a lot of material to go with.”

Presumably this doesn’t mean we’ll see George riding around on a moped festooned with an unnecessary number of headlights and wing mirrors.

There’s no word yet as to when The Famous Five will air. We’ll bring you more news on this as we get it.

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