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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "The Saint" is marching back to television. Roger Moore, who played debonair international thief Simon Templar in the 1960s British series, is helping to produce a two-hour TV movie that could serve as the basis for a new show.
He is teaming on the project with producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana, writer Jorge Zamacona, feature producer Bill Macdonald, and his son, Geoffrey Moore. Levinson is set to direct the pilot, which will be produced independently and then shopped to the networks.
English actor James Purefoy, who played Mark Antony in HBO's "Rome," is in talks to star as Templar, filling a role last played by Val Kilmer in a 1997 movie.
Macdonald has been associated with "Saint" on and off for 17 years. In 1991, he acquired the rights to the Leslie Charteris books for producer Robert Evans. The two went on to produce the Kilmer feature, which failed to ignite a feature franchise.
In 2004, Macdonald teamed with Zamacona and the Moores to bring the "Saint" franchise to television. The four formed Templar Entertainment Group, through which they acquired the TV rights to Charteris' novels.
The new "Saint" series was created by Zamacona, who wrote the pilot script, and Macdonald. The project was originally set up at TNT, which announced it as part of its 2007 development slate last March. TNT later passed on it, and the rights reverted to the producers.
Zamacona approached Levinson and Fontana, who had given him his first writing job on "Homicide: Life on the Street." The two came on board to executive produce "Saint" with Macdonald, Zamacona and Geoffrey Moore, and Levinson agreed to direct.
"One of the things we lost a little bit of in the movie but want to bring to the TV series is that Simon Templar is very funny character with great lines and situation humor, and I don't think there is anybody better than Levinson to tackle that," Macdonald said.
The producers then went after Purefoy, a staple of British TV. Casting is under way for the other key parts in the pilot: Inspector Claud Eustace Teal, the Interpol agent in charge of tracking Templar; Templar's romantic interest/assistant, Patricia Holm; and his enemy-turned-partner in crime, Baldwin Aleppo.
Filming on the TV movie is expected to begin in April in Budapest, Hungary, New York and Puerto Rico.
The two-hour movie/backdoor pilot model was used successfully to launch an updated version of another classic action-adventure series, "Knight Rider," which is expected to be picked up to series by NBC after the movie scored big ratings last month.
Roger Moore starred on, produced and directed several episodes of the original British "Saint," which ran on ITV from 1962-69 and in syndication in the U.S. from 1963-66 and as a summer series on NBC from 1967-69. In the past 10 years, both UPN and ABC have also attempted to remake the series.