Last week, Deadline was the first to report that Robert B. Parker’s estate had reached a deal for Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg to revive Parker’s beloved character Spenser on Netflix, in hopes of releasing a number of feature films.
Netflix has made a deal with Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg and the Robert B. Parker estate to bring back for a potential series of feature films Spenser, the poetry-spouting, wisecracking boxer-turned-Boston-based private eye made famous in 40 novels by Parker.
Previously, Robert Urich (who passed away in 2002) starred as Spenser in the television series Spenser: For Hire, which ran on ABC from 1985 until 1988. Now, thirty years later, Wahlberg, 47, an international box office juggernaut, will reportedly team with long-time collaborator Berg, 54, who directed him in several films, including Lone Survivor, Patriot’s Day, and Deep Water Horizon.
(Note: Joe Mantegna also played Spenser in three TV movies between 1999-2001, Spenser: Small Vices, Thin Air, and Walking Shadow.)
While it’s believed, at least for now, that Wahlberg will star as Spenser, that’s not been 100% confirmed. It’s possible that he could be producing alongside Berg, and that another actor will be cast in the lead role. However, if he does suit up to play the Boston private investigator, it won’t be the first time that Wahlberg portrays a character first made famous in bestselling novels. Back in 2007, he starred as Bob Lee Swagger, aka the Nailer, in the movie Shooter, which was adapted from Stephen Hunter’s New York Times bestselling novel Point of Impact (1993).
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The first film will be an adaptation of Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland, one of the eight Spenser mystery novels written byAce Atkins, who took over the series after Parker died in 2010. The movie will differ from the novel, in that it begins with Spenser emerging from a prison stretch, stripped of his private investigator license. Here, he gets pulled back into the underbelly of the Boston crime world when he uncovers the truth about a sensational murder and the twisted conspiracy behind it.
A couple things stand out here. . . First, in the books, Spenser never did time in prison, so it’ll be interesting to see why they made that change in the forthcoming movie project. Secondly, Wonderland (the forty-first book in the series) was the second contribution to the franchise made by Ace Atkins, who has now written eight Spenser novels to date, including the recently-released Old Black Magic.
Henry Cimoli and Spenser have been friends for years, yet the old boxing trainer has never asked the private eye for a favor. Until now. A heavy-handed developer is trying to buy up Henry’s condo on Revere Beach and sends thugs to move the process along. Soon Spenser and his apprentice, Zebulon Sixkill, find a trail leading to a mysterious and beautiful woman, a megalomaniacal Las Vegas kingpin, and plans to turn to a chunk of land north of Boston into a sprawling casino. Bitter rivals emerge, alliances turn, and the uglier pieces of the Boston political machine look to put an end to Spenser’s investigation.
Aspiration, greed, and twisted dreams all focus on the old Wonderland dog track where the famous amusement park once fronted the ocean. For Spenser and Z, this simple favor to Henry will become the fight of their lives.
As for Wahlberg and another Robert B. Parker character, there’s an interesting connection to one of his big brothers.
Donny Wahlberg, when he’s not back on tour with New Kids on the Block, has spent the last seven years starring on Blue Bloods (which airs Sundays on CBS at 10 pm ET) as NYPD Detective Danny Reagan. On the show, Danny’s father is Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, who has also portrayed Jesse Stone in a number of TV movies for CBS and the Hallmark Channel since 2005.
While not nearly as long as the Spenser franchise (only 17 books to date), Stone has been around since 1997’s Night Passenger. Parker wrote the first nine books himself, his last being Split Image (2010). Later, Michael Brandman penned three books before turning the reins over to prominent crime writer Reed Ferrell Coleman, whose first four books in the series are already available in bookstores. His fifth, Colorblind, comes out on September 11th. Additionally, a new Selleck flick is said to be in the works, with the veteran actor still on board to star.
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.