×

John Turturro on ‘The Name of the Rose’: Politics, Celibacy and the Suppression of Women

John Turturro and the producers of “The Name of the Rose”  unveiled their ambitious English-language TV adaptation of Umberto Eco’s murder mystery in Rome on Thursday ahead of its global rollout, which will kick off March 4 on Italy’s RAI.

Producers and the Italian pubcaster have high hopes the show will expand the international footprint of Italy’s high-end dramas following “My Brilliant Friend,” based on a more recent bestseller. The $30 million, eight-episode series is directed by Giacomo Battiato, whose 2011 Palestinian-terrorism thriller “L’Infiltré” was nominated for an International Emmy, and produced by Rome-based companies 11 Marzo and Palomar and Rai Fiction. It will go out in the U.S. via AMC on May 1.

John Turturro, who plays the central character of Franciscan monk William of Baskerville, said that Eco’s novel, which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide since first being published in 1980, was very relevant today.

“There is a power structure – the church – which also represents the government or politics,” he said. “Then there is suppression of women. There is the question of celibacy and denial of science. And there is philosophy.” Turturro added that inherent in the book is “the idea that all of this is a buffer, a way to combat extremism of any kind.”

Turturro, who also worked on the screenplay as a credited writer, said that he had not seen the 1986 movie adaptation of Eco’s bestseller, starring Sean Connery.

“Even though I love Sean Connery, I realized that I had a doll of Sean Connery as James Bond as a kid,” he quipped, adding that this “would not have been helpful” in preparing him to reprise the role of the 14th-century monk investigating murders in a secluded abbey.

Rupert Everett plays merciless inquisitor Bernard Gui, and Michael Emerson is the abbot. The international cast also includes rising German star Damian Hardung, who plays Baskerville’s novice. The Italian cast – praised by Turturro for acting in impeccable English – includes Fabrizio Bentivoglio as Remigio, the abbey’s cellarer; Roberto Herlitzka as elderly monk Alinardo; and Greta Scarano in a double role.

RAI head of drama Eleonora Andreatta noted that “The Name of the Rose” was shot at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios and called it “an example of how one can be highbrow and popular at the same time.” She also noted that it has already been sold in 130 territories.

RAI’s new course is “based on the capability of forging international alliances based on locally rooted ideas that can germinate globally with top-level production values and talents,” she said.

Palomar managing director Nicola Serra said Germany’s Tele München, the prominent TV company acquired last week by global investment firm KKR, was able to get global networks to board the show during the development and production phases, not based on the finished product.

“This is a very strong indication of a growing trust that Italian TV productions are able to elicit,” he noted.

Besides AMC in the U.S. and the BBC in the U.K, the Eco adaptation has sold to Starz in Latin America, OCS in France, and Sky in Germany, among many other outlets. The medieval thriller marks “the first time in decades” that an Italian drama will air on the BBC in a prime time slot, said producer Matteo Levi, who originated the project.

More TV

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    WarnerMedia Pulls Out of Audience-Targeting Alliance Open A.P.

    WarnerMedia is going its own way when it comes to helping advertisers find specific groups of TV-watchers. The company, a founding member of the audience-targeting media alliance known as Open A.P., said Friday it would withdraw from the group, citing its desire to pursue its own strategy under owner AT&T. AT&T purchased Time Warner in [...]

  • BLESS THIS MESS - "The Chicken

    Listen: Lake Bell, Dax Shepard on Returning to Broadcast TV With 'Bless This Mess'

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Lake Bell and Dax Shepard, stars of ABC’s “Bless This Mess,” which debuted on Monday. The show centers around a newly married couple, played by Bell and Shepard, who decide to ditch their shoebox New York City [...]

  • superstore renewed season 3

    'Superstore' Showrunner Justin Spitzer Steps Down as He, Gabe Miller, Jonathan Green Renew Overall Deals at UTV

    “Superstore” executive producers Justin Spitzer, Gabe Miller and Jonathan Green have all renewed their overall deals with Universal Television. In addition, Miller and Green will take over showrunner duties on “Superstore” while Spitzer — who also created the series — will shift to develop new projects for the studio beginning with the 2019-2020 season. “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content