The Queen’s Gambit is a surprise hit for Netflix. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, Netflix’s series is co-created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott, Allan Shiach's pen name.
As reported by MovieMaker, Shiach originally adapted The Queen’s Gambit as a feature film screenplay – which Heath Ledger was going to direct. The lead role of Beth Harmon would have gone to Ellen Page (Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth in the Netflix series).
Tragically, Ledger died in 2008 before production on the movie could get started. Shiach discussed the project with The Independent back in 2008, where he noted the similarities between Beth and Ledger: “Everyone knows Heath was a user of prescription drugs; and that he had addiction issues when he was a young man. On a personal level I am incredibly sad. One is always sad to lose someone as a friend. But, what is more, the movie business lost a real talent. I think he would have been an extraordinary director.”
Shiach also shared how far into development the movie was before Ledger’s untimely death: “I did draft after draft and he gave his input and we met several times in New York and here, where he was spending a lot of his time. We had got to the stage where we had sent the script to Ellen. Heath was full of ideas for the other cast, mainly from his list of acting friends. We were planning to make a movie at the end of 2008.”
Ledger wasn’t the only director interested in the film – Michael Apted and Bernardo Bertolucci also considered directing the movie, but both eventually left the project. Shiach commented that, later, three people contacted him about directing The Queen's Gambit, but Ledger was his choice: “I found Heath was the one I wanted to work with. He was passionate about it; he was an intense, interested young man and I was drawn to him immediately. We spoke and spoke about the project over the phone, and then eventually got round to meeting up over it towards the end of last year."
As popular as The Queen’s Gambit is proving to be on Netflix, we would have loved to see Ledger’s vision of the story on the big screen.
If you’re finished watching The Queen’s Gambit, check out our list of the best Netflix shows to find what to watch next.