At first glance, it seems an unlikely choice for the man behind The Big Bang Theory to commit to developing a TV series of The Bonfire Of The Vanities for Amazon. The acclaimed 1987 novel by Tom Wolfe was previously adapted into a feature film of the same name by Brian De Palma in 1990, but it was such a disastrous project that it spawned the 1991 book The Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire Of The Vanities Goes To Hollywood by Julie Salamon.
The film was a commercial failure on release, and has remained something of a cautionary tale ever since. But the television legend will now deliver a single 8 episode limited series to Amazon, with the novel being adapted for the screen by Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire). Looking a little deeper at the many layers within the plot of the novel, it becomes very clear that many of the themes involved are as relevant today as they were during the 1980s.
The Bonfire Of The Vanities chronicles the racial and cultural tensions that simmered just below the surface of Wall Street and its institutions during the 1980s. The premise hangs on the shoulders of Sherman McCoy (played by Tom Hanks in the film version), who is a successful New York City bond trader, a husband and a father. He also has a mistress (played by Melanie Griffith in the film), and it is with this woman that McCoy is driving one night, when the pair becomes lost. They’re approached by two young black men, whom they assume pose a threat and, in fleeing, they hit one of the young men with the car and drive away.
As the young man lies in hospital, tabloid journalist Peter Fallow (played by Bruce Willis in the film) is assigned to cover his story, since it has been revealed that he was struck down by a wealthy, white driver. McCoy is identified by the description of his car and loses everything, while Fallow investigates and discovers that the mistress was actually behind the wheel during the incident – but she has since left the country. A tale filled with twists and turns follows, with each character using the events of that night to bolster their own position.
The Bonfire Of The Vanities television project is still clearly in its earliest stages, as there been no announcement of a director, or cast. It’ll be interesting to hear who Lorre taps to play these roles, though, as this is bound to be a high profile release when it finally arrives on the Amazon streaming platform.