Well, the most-talked about TV drama since “Breaking Bad” is done for the moment, with the eighth episode of “True Detective” airing on HBO Sunday night, providing closure on the Yellow King and the spread of the conspiracy (catch up with our recap of the final part here). For the last couple of months, the internet has been abuzz with theories, arguments and think-pieces: whatever you think of Nic Pizzolatto‘s show, there’s no denying that it provided an awful lot to chew on.
So now begins the look ahead to the inevitably, but still not yet official Season Two, and the early word right now is that when the show does return, it’ll be something quite different. Though Pizzolatto will stay involved, stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson won’t be returning, and director Cary Fukunaga won’t be helming either. And while the #TrueDetectiveSeasonTwo hashtag has been a fun game in terms of suggesting potential casting, what we’re really interested in, given what a huge effect he had on the show, is who’ll be stepping behind the camera.
Pizzolatto has indicated that it’s unlikely that a single helmer will handle all episodes of the second season this time, if only for practical reasons, to prevent the show having to wait for all photography to finish before post-production can begin. But we still suspect we’ll be seeing a biggish name behind the camera — with a new cast, setting and aesthetic to establish, it’d be useful to have another visionary on board, whether only for the pilot, or for a bulk of episodes (a la Jane Campion on “Top Of The Lake,” who split duties evenly with trusted lieutenant Garth Davis). The writer also indicated in a sit-down with Hitfix that he’s heading into the second season realizing that “I need to keep being strange.” And while he’s still establishing the story, Pizzolatto has revealed that it’ll be about “hard women, bad men, and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system,” having previously hinted to Buzzfeed that he’d been “reading about the last 40 years of Southern California government.”
And it’s certainly true that, with Fukunaga having pretty much landed on the A-list straight from a TV series, all kinds of people could be interested in a second season of the show, from hotshots on the rise like him, to veterans who could use a career boost. Below, we’ve picked out five filmmakers who we’d like to see be involved in bringing “True Detective” Season Two to life. Add your own suggestions in the comments section.
Who? Probably the least-well known name on this list, Saulnier came through on the independent horror scene thanks to 2007’s “Murder Party,” and had gone on to work as a DP for other lo-fi features like “Putty Hill.” But the young filmmaker really made an impact when his second feature as director, “Blue Ruin,” debuted at Cannes last year. The film, a gritty, blood-splattered twist on the revenge movie, has since gone on to screen at TIFF, Fantastic Fest and Sundance, among others, picking up rave reviews pretty much everywhere it’s gone (read our own here).
Why? Saulnier is about at the same point of his career as Fukunaga was pre-“True Detective,” if not earlier, and involvement with the show could help boost him into the bigger leagues. But more importantly, anyone who’s seen “Blue Ruin,” or even glimpsed a trailer, knows that he’s got a remarkably strong sense for both suspense and atmosphere, which are arguably the two most important things that Fukunaga brought to the show, and certainly two of the things we’d most miss moving forward. There’s also a wry sense of comedy to the film that fits in nicely with Pizzolatto’s tone. Saulnier doesn’t currently appear to have a new project firmly lined up, either, so he might well be available.
Why Not? The leap from micro-budget indie to gruelling, lengthy TV shoot is a big one — Fukunaga at least had two features under his belt before he made the show. The cast of “Blue Ruin” are also mostly made up of lesser-known actors or Saulnier’s friends, and with big stars likely being courted for the show, we wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted a more established figure to work with.
Fantasy Cast: “Blue Ruin” star Macon Blair, and “Crystal Fairy” actress Gaby Hoffman as a pair of Brooklyn detectives/performance artists, who must catch a serial killer without selling out to the man.
Who? Oh, come on, guys. Admittedly it’s four decades or so since William Friedkin was at his peak, but surely making “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” back to back buys you some name recognition. Those two films remain Friedkin’s best known, but there’s some gems elsewhere: 1977’s “Sorceror,” the terrific 80s cop movie “To Live And Die In L.A,” the more problematic, but still interesting “Cruising,” and, most recently, Tracy Letts adaptations “Bug” and “Killer Joe” (the latter of which was part of the McConaissance).
Why? It’s hard enough to find a filmmaker who made one great cop movie, but Friedkin has made two (or even two-and-a-half, counting “Cruising”). Forty-plus years on, “The French Connection” remains an absolute high watermark of the genre, and while “To Live And Die In L.A.” is less famous, and a little less evergreen, it’s almost as great. And with “The Exorcist” still standing as one of the most terrifying films ever made, a background of police procedural and horror would seem to be perfect for more “True Detective.” It’s true that Friedkin was off his game for a long time, but the Southern Gothic stylings of “Bug” and “Killer Joe” have seen him back on form in a big way. Friedkin isn’t above working on the small screen—the lean years saw him direct a number of things for TV, including a few episodes of “C.S.I,” and he’s attached to make a Mae West biopic with Bette Midler at HBO, so already has an in there.
Why Not? Friedkin might be on the comeback trail, but “Killer Joe” was nearly three years ago, and it took a while for a follow-up to get set up, and he’s yet to have a feature follow-up. That said, he seems to have a relationship with HBO, but that in itself causes a problem: depending on when “Mae West” shoots, it could rule him out. Also, not to be too ageist, but even if Friedkin was to direct only half the series, that’s still quite a punishing shoot for a 78-year-old. That said, we don’t see that as a major stumbling block, and would love to see this happen.
Fantasy Cast: Crossover time! Popeye Doyle (a reluctantly pulled-from-retirement Gene Hackman) and a back-from-the-dead Richard Chance from “To Live And Die In L.A” (William Petersen) team up to take down the demon Pazazu (Linda Blair).
Who? A director who’d been sadly in the wilderness until relatively recently, Peirce broke through thanks to the Oscar-winning success of 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” a film remembered mostly for Hilary Swank‘s Oscar winning performance, but a really excellently made debut beyond that. It took a few years for her to follow it up, but 2008’s “Stop-Loss” proved a fitting, if wildly underseen sophomore effort. Another quiet period followed, but Peirce returned last year with her remake of “Carrie.”
Why? Regardless of whether you think the charges that “True Detective” was misogynist, or at least gave its female characters short-shrift, were fair, Pizzolatto seems to have taken them to heart, hinting (and then taking it back) that the second series might have female protagonists. But regardless of whether we end up with women in the lead for the second go-round, there’s one immediate way to go some way towards addressing the gender imbalance, and that’s by hiring a woman to direct. Jane Campion‘s “Top Of The Lake” demonstrated the fresh perspective that can be brought to the police procedural by not having a middle-aged dude behind the camera. Not that Peirce would be merely an affirmative-action hire, though: she’s a hugely talented filmmaker who’s never quite got the credit she deserves, and based on her previous work, could come up with something authentic and chilling here. She’s not against TV, either: she helmed an episode of “The L Word,” and just signed a first-look deal with ABC Studios.
Why Not? Though it was presumably taken on the basis that it was a chance to actually get a movie made (and paid for it), we’d be lying if we said that we liked “Carrie” very much—it might have turned out worse in other hands, but it didn’t turn out all that well either. Beyond that, her ABC Studios deal may be a practical roadblock for her, at least for now. And with “Carrie” as her only real genre fare (though she’s developed unmade crime projects besides that), HBO might be reluctant to pull the trigger on her.
Fantasy Cast: Melissa Leo and Viola Davis as tough New Orleans cops solving a series of voodoo-related murders. Would also serve as an extra season of “Treme,” bringing in an extra audience of the five people who watched “Treme.”
Who? Sure, almost no one saw “Oldboy,” but you still know who we’re talking about: Spike Lee is probably one of the few genuine celebrity directors, breaking out thanks to the indie hit “She’s Gotta Have It,” and has made any number of classics or near-classics since: “Do The Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” “Malcolm X,” “He Got Game,” “25th Hour,” “Inside Man,” and that’s not counting his sterling documentary work. The director is currently in post on his crowd-funded “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus.”
Why? Well, despite the sometimes-patchy nature of his work, we still love Spike, and are always excited about whatever he’s cooking up. His relatively rare ventures into the crime genre (“Clockers,” “Summer Of Sam“) are often underrated, and certainly make us wish he handled that territory more often. He’s worked occasionally in TV (he helmed the pilot for James Woods drama “Shark,” and another show from the creators of “Oz” starring Bobby Cannavale as the Mayor Of New York), and has some form with HBO, who’ve backed several of his documentaries and a pilot called “Da Brick,” which didn’t move forward. And perhaps crucially, Lee’s not quite on an upswing of his career—few saw “Red Hook Summer,” “Oldboy” was critically and commercially disastrous, and that he had to turn to Kickstarter for his latest isn’t a great sign. Working on the second season of an established hit would be a great way to remind everyone of his immense talent.
Why Not? Well, Lee’s fairly uncompromising and outspoken, and there’s always the risk that he’ll bring attention to a project that’s not strictly about the project (though all publicity is good publicity…) More importantly, Lee’s a real auteur in a way that some of these other filmmakers (and Fukunaga) haven’t yet established themselves as, and even with the creative freedom that would come with a new cast and story, may not be keen at the idea of playing in someone else’s sandbox.
Fantasy Cast: Samuel L. Jackson and Adrien Brody (two Lee alumni with prestige who could use some quality material for once) as Red Hook cops solving a series of anti-gentrification murders patterned after Michael Jackson songs.
Who? Perhaps only a touch better known than Saulnier at this point, Mickle’s little-seen first film was gentrification-themed horror “Mulberry Street,” before following it up with ambitious low-budget vampire flick “Stake Land.” Both kicked against their limited means a bit, but certainly suggested a director with talent. Even then, we were surprised by how his third film, “We Are What We Are,” turned out—we’d been big fans of the original by Jorge Michael Grau, but Mickle turned the remake into something distinct and equally powerful, and really marked himself as one to watch with the picture. His follow-up, twisty noir picture “Cold In July,” premiered at Sundance in January, and again had some strong reviews (read ours).
Why? Mickle’s skillset seems to play nicely into the world of “True Detective” we’ve seen so far. He’s got a strong sense of the American landscape, the crime vibe of “Cold In July” is an excellent fit from what we’ve heard (even Playlisters who weren’t crazy about the film think he’d be a good hire), and the horror background, particularly the everyday, low-key atrocities of “We Are What We Are,” suggest that he’d be simpatico with Pizzolatto. Mickle’s also at the right point in his career for something like this—one to watch, but not so much so that he’d be turning down blockbusters in order to do the show.
Why Not? For one, Mickle has TV plans with writing partner Nick Damici, developing a TV version of “Stake Land,” and “Hap and Leonard,” from “Cold In July” writer Joe Lansdale, for the Sundance Channel. Faced with the choice between that and working on someone else’s property, it could be hard to abandon your own baby, whatever the career benefits of switching horses. He also writes as well, and might not be keen on working entirely from Pizzollato’s scripts, however strong they might be.
Fantasy Cast: We’d 100% tune in for a reteam of “Cold In July” co-stars Sam Shepard and Don Johnson as grizzled retired Texas detectives who reunite to solve the one case they couldn’t crack.
Honorable Mentions: Among the more feasible filmmakers that would be a good fit were “A Hijacking” and “Borgen” director Tobias Lindholm; “Oldboy” helmer Park Chan-Wook; “Martha Marcy May Marlene” helmer Sean Durkin (who’s already moved to TV with miniseries “Southcliffe“); “Sun Don’t Shine” director/actress Amy Seimetz; “Monster” helmer Patty Jenkins (who’s worked on a good deal of “The Killing“); “Starred Up” director David Mackenzie and Brit-horror whiz Ben Wheatley.
We’d love to see what “Under The Skin” helmer Jonathan Glazer would do, but we suspect he’d be less likely to take the gig. Other filmmakers who could be interesting include Michael Mann, Bennett Miller, Alexandre Moors (“Blue Caprice“), Sebastian Silva, Jeff Nichols, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Pulse“), Lenny Abrahamson (“What Richard Did“), Andrew Dominik, Thomas Vinterberg, David Cronenberg, Oliver Stone and John Hillcoat. Let us know your faves in the comments section.