Park Chan-wook, the acclaimed director of Oldboy and The Handmaiden, will be directing the TV adaptation of The Sympathizer, the Pulitzer-winning novel by the Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen. Nguyen announced the news on his Twitter feed. "Thrilled to finally announce that @A24 has optioned THE SYMPATHIZER for TV, with director Park Chan-wook, whose films include THE HANDMAIDEN," the tweet read. "His OLDBOY was a big influence on THE SYMPATHIZER, and I can't imagine a better person to direct this TV adaptation with @rhombusmedia!"
Deadline Hollywood reports that A24 and Rhombus Media have optioned the rights to the novel and are developing the novel for a television series. Here's a look at the original tweet:
Thrilled to finally announce that @A24 has optioned THE SYMPATHIZER for TV, with director Park Chan-wook, whose films include THE HANDMAIDEN. His OLDBOY was a big influence on THE SYMPATHIZER, and I can't imagine a better person to direct this TV adaptation with @rhombusmedia!
— Viet Thanh Nguyen (@viet_t_nguyen) April 7, 2021
Published in April 2015, The Sympathizer is an ironic, darkly comic spy novel narrated by an unnamed half-French, half-Vietnamese man who served as a spy for the Communist side during the Vietnam War. He writes a confession of his life starting with the end of the war and his escape from Vietnam to a life of exile with his fellow compatriots in Los Angeles, then his return to Southeast Asia to serve as an advisor on a Hollywood movie about the Vietnam War and his disastrous attempts to continue to work for the Vietnamese Communist government.
Nguyen is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of California. He is also a regular contributor and op-ed columnist for The New York Times. The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016 and also received the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature as well as the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and over a dozen other awards.
This will not be the first Western TV series Chan-wook directed. He previously helmed the 2018 TV miniseries adaptation of John le Carré's spy novel The Little Drummer Girl, which starred Florence Pugh, who has since gone on to play Yelena Belova in the Marvel movie Black Widow, where she is rumoured to take over the mantle from Scarlet Johansson. It seems fitting that Park would direct another spy drama with The Sympathizer. Meanwhile, Nguyen has written a sequel, The Committed, published back in March.