The Queen’s Gambit has been lighting up Netflix’s Top Ten ever since it came out on October 23, 2020.
The miniseries follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphaned girl who discovers and cultivates and incredible talent for the game of chess. She begins competing in chess tournaments as a teenager, and struggles with drug addiction on her journey to become a grandmaster. While the show takes some inspiration from the life of chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, it’s an entirely fictitious tale, and one that has had an intense journey from book to screen.
The miniseries is based on the 1983 novel of the same name, which was written by Walter Tevis. The rights to the book were acquired by Allan Scott nearly 30 years ago, and an adaptation has struggled to get off the ground ever since (via Chess.com). Many directors have been attached to the project over time, and at one point, a movie adaptation was in the works with an immensely talented actor set to take the helm.
Heath Ledger was set to make The Queen’s Gambit his directorial debut
The Queen’s Gambit director Scott Frank, who’s also been nominated for two Academy A.wards, sat down with Forbes for an interview to promote the miniseries. In it, he discussed the long, tumultuous path the book has had coming to the screen, as well as his love for the source material.
He also shared this interesting tidbit, “Many directors have tried to make it. Heath Ledger was set to direct this as a film a few years before he died. This was going to be his directing debut.”
Ledger tragically passed away in January 2008, just a few months before he would change superhero movies forever with his role as Joker in The Dark Knight. Before he passed away, Ledger took an interest in directing, and even approached Isaac Brock, the lead singer of Modest Mouse, about directing one of the band’s music videos. It seems as though the late actor also expressed a willingness to take on The Queen’s Gambit, but the project never materialized.
Creator Alan Scott eventually decided this kind of story would be better as an episodic tale, and eventually, it became a Netflix original series. Still, it’s intriguing to think about the movie that could have been had Ledger not left this world far too soon.
You can now watch The Queen’s Gambit in its entirety on Netflix.