It’s been a long, winding road for the Charlie Hunnam-led “Shantaram,” but due to a writing backlog, the end doesn’t appear to be in sight.
Inside Film broke the news that production on the Apple TV+ series has been suspended due to showrunner issues. The publication reported that only two of the series’ 10 episodes have been shot, which Variety confirmed. The suspension is expected to last for several months.
What’s less certain is status is the status of Eric Warren Singer, the series’ writer and showrunner. Inside Film reported that series producers Anonymous Content and Paramount Television Studios were seeking to hire a second showrunner to work alongside Singer, but Variety reported that he’ll be departing the show. Shooting of the first two episodes wrapped before Christmas and was supposed to resume on Thursday, February 20.
An Anonymous Content spokesperson referred questions to Paramount Television Studios. A Paramount Television Studios spokesperson did not return a request for comment. An Apple TV+ spokesperson did not return a request for comment. A representative for Singer did not return a request for comment.
Apple TV+’s “Shantaram” was to adapt Gregory David Roberts’ 2003 novel of the same name, which centers on a heroin-addicted Australian bank robber who escapes prison and flees to the slums in India. Though the series’ 10 episodes had been outlined in the writer’s room, Variety reported that Singer had not completed all the necessary scripts, which means that filming is unlikely to resume for several months. The bidding war for “Shantaram” was won by Anonymous Content and Paramount Television Studios in early 2018 and Apple landed the project several months later. A film adaptation of the novel has also been bandied about for years, with several producers, directors and stars attached at various times.
What is clear is that the production’s suspension has troubled Australian union Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. The show was produced in Australia via a $7.4 million grant from the Federal Government’s Location Incentive program, supported by Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund, according to Inside Film.
“This is disappointing for our crew and performer members who have arranged their working schedules around this production going ahead in Victoria in the early part of this year, particularly given more than $7 million of Australian and Victorian taxpayers’ money was spent to lure this production to Victoria,” Adam Portelli, the union’s regional director, told Inside Film.
Variety reported that the series’ main cast, including Australia’s Richard Roxburgh and India’s Radhike Apte, are still attached to the project, though the hiatus may mean that local extras cannot be retained. Justin Kurzel (“Assassin’s Creed”) is under contract to direct five episodes.
As for Apple TV+, it has been on the hunt for a breakout title since launching last November. The streaming service hedged its initial bets on the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon-led “The Morning Show,” but the series didn’t gain quite the traction that Apple was likely hoping for. Though the recently-released “Little America” was well-received, Apple TV+’s offerings haven’t put the service on the map in the same way that Disney+ hit the ground running with “The Mandalorian” last year.
Regardless, Apple TV+ and its competitors will have their work cut out for them in the coming months when major streaming services such as HBO Max and Peacock hit the market in the coming months.