The Queen's Gambit Is A Limited Series For A Reason

But it was almost a Heath Ledger-directed movie.


Fans of The Crown are bound to be entranced by Netflix's new period drama, The Queen's Gambit. A drama set in the 1950s, the show is based on a novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. It follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphan who battles substance misuse while rising through the ranks of professional chess in order to create a new life for herself. But as intriguing as all that is, there's a limit to how much we'll get: the show is advertised as a miniseries, which means The Queen's Gambit likely won't return for Season 2.

Tevis' novel is a standalone book, and a relatively short one at that. It's not that the writer didn't have more ideas — according to PopSugar, he reportedly discussed writing a sequel. However, he ran out of time when he died in 1984, a year after Queen's Gambit was released.

Coincidentally (and tragically), another death interfered with the first attempt at an on-screen adaptation. In the early 1990s, screenwriter Allan Scott acquired the rights to Tevis' novel and planned to make it a movie, according to The New York Times. In 2008, Heath Ledger landed the directing role and Ellen Page, the part of Beth. But before production began, Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose and the project got shelved.

It wasn't until a few years ago that series co-creator, executive producer, and director Scott Frank, who wrote and directed Netflix's Godless, proposed The Queen's Gambit to the streamer as a miniseries. “If you did it as a movie, it becomes a sports movie: ‘Is she going to beat the Russian guy?’” Frank told The Times. “And that’s not what the book is about. For me, it’s about the pain and cost of being so gifted.” The seventh episode is actually a bonus — Frank originally wrote six, then added the last "because chess takes time."

Godless, which became an Emmy-winning series, also ended after one season — the format seems to be Frank's style. So when you dive into The Queen's Gambit, you'll want to make every minute count — just like a game of chess,