“I think one of the things we’re all proud of with the film Hanna is it was probably the first prototype that came before films like Hunger Games and Divergent,” says David Farr, writer of the 2011 film and creator of Amazon’s upcoming reboot series. Yet, as he spoke of the story’s female-first theme with a select group of press on a conference call during a trip to the show’s Budapest, Hungary set back in Mary of 2018, it quickly became clear that the TV show will expand on the movie’s original coming-of-age story — and take things in a whole new direction.
It’s been eight years since the movie, which told the story of Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) — a teenage girl on a violent journey of self-discovery amid a backdrop of family dysfunction, CIA cover-ups, genetic manipulation and murder. While this three-day set visit into the belly of Budapest featured a car chase, gunfight and explosions aplenty, Farr, along with the cast, laid out to Collider just how Amazon’s Hanna will translate the movie’s stylistic high concept fairy tale-themed story for television audiences.
To refresh your memory, 2011’s Hanna featured heavy influences from a variety of fairy tales: From the Evil Stepmother motif that played out between young Hanna and CIA operative Marissa (Cate Blanchett) to the Little Red Riding Hood-style hunt that transpired between the two after Hanna gets separated from her father, Erik (Eric Bana).
According to Farr, they’ve scrapped this theme, for the most part. “It’s still there because it’s inherent to the story. But it’s not nearly as strong,” he reveals, acknowledging the difference in narrative as the main culprit in toning down the original story’s high concept nature for the small screen. “Obviously, television allows me to spend longer developing character, exploring character, and delving into character. I think as you do that, typically, that takes over and the slightly more high concept fairytale thing disappears.”
That said, Farr says that the movie laid the groundwork for the path the new series will take. “There was some strong backstory elements to the film that I thought were very exciting to the story in a longer format,” he explains. “We start a bit far in the past but then we join the series where the film began. But it ends way beyond where the film goes. Anyone who knows the film, beyond Episode 2, there will be entirely new material. I thought that was very important. This is a very different thing.”
One of the connective components from the movie that will be explored here is the relationship between Hanna and her father Erik (Joel Kinnaman). In the film, the two live in the forest away from civilization — far from the government agents who wish them harm — to not only protect Hanna at any cost, but to educate her on how to survive the harshest conditions, and train her relentlessly on how to kill.
“There are many layers of what it means to be a parent,” Kinnaman adds. “And what is a parent? What is a family? These questions… David has a way of kind of asking these sort of fundamental questions that I think many families go through, and many people go through, but he’s put it in this framework of a very intense high concept thriller. And you never feel like the concept is in the way of the theme. They’re completely intertwined.”
Esme Creed-Miles, who takes up the mantle from Saoirse Ronan as Hanna in the series, gives an even deeper glimpse at the show’s complex father-daughter relationship. “She’s looking for that gratification and that love from him. And I think he’s so in his work and in his world, he doesn’t involve her in the goings-on, in the process, his plan and his mission. […] It’s frustrating for her because she’s been trained all her life and she wants to start using her skills. But she just doesn’t understand why that it’s for her own protection.”
Given that this is her first major role, 18-year-old Creed-Miles has some big shoes to fill. But it’s evident she didn’t come into the show to emulate what Ronan did before her. Instead, as Farr explains, she brought a more human sense of vulnerability to the part “that then explodes into action.”
“I think she’s at the very interesting moment in life where you’re, like, caught between childhood and adulthood,” Mireille Enos, who plays CIA agent Marissa in the series, says of Esme. “And at any given moment, you know, you’re not sure which side of that line you’re on. And that makes Hanna very interesting because she’s also willing to share all of that with the camera.”
Another similarity between the theatrical release and the Amazon series is the story’s global aesthetic. From the forests of Finland to Egypt, audiences followed Saoirse Ronan on an amazing journey in not only finding answers about her past, but discovering who she is and where she fit into this world. Similar to the global aspect of other streaming shows like Netflix’s short-lived Sense8, with its production spanning roughly 11 countries, Farr confirms the Amazon series will physically follow Hanna as she sets out on her adventure.
“We are essentially on a journey with this girl so yes, we absolutely go from the forests of Northern Europe to the deserts of Africa to Spain to France to Germany to Britain,” Farr explains. “It has that, I hope, epic quality which is matched by her inner journey, which is essentially about a young girl trying to find out where her true family lies.”
Enos, acknowledges the grandiose nature of this production, especially from a television standpoint. Coming from her own experience on AMC’s The Killing (where she first worked opposite Kinnaman), which took place in the ever-rainy city of Seattle, Washington, and ABC’s stylish Shonda Rhimes-created drama, The Catch, she was quick to rave about just how large Hanna‘s world is. “We’re casting actors from all of these actual countries,” she says. “And there are three separate major storylines, all happening at once. So it feels very big.”
And of course, if a story is traveling the world, one would expect the actors that appear in each locale to feel like they belong. It’s that sense of authenticity that Kinnaman, who helms from Europe, raves about. “We’re not doing Schindler’s List,” he explains. “So everyone is speaking their real languages and I think the time for the Schindler’s List has passed. It just doesn’t feel right, you know, speaking in different dialects. I think that was a really good choice.”
Getting back to Farr’s comparison to YA box office hits like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the show-creator highlights the importance of female-empowerment in the new series, as he hopes the show, like the movie before it, will connect with young women the world over. “This is a female story. And it is a female story because it is absolutely about the journey of a young woman who is discovering who she is. But also, she is an action heroine and is also a remarkable fighter. She’s someone who is learning how to assemble her own two feet in the world,” he explains.
With multiple storylines and timelines featured in Amazon’s Hanna, it’s clear the series will dive deeper into the movie’s characters and what drives them. As with most prestige television nowadays, there’s a good chance each person featured in the series will have elements of heroism and villainy — after all, it’s that complexity that makes for good storytelling.
In an attempt to simplify things as the conversation ended, Farr gave an impromptu logline for the series, saying, “Fundamentally, it’s about a girl looking for a home. Fundamentally, it’s about a man who’s trying to kill the woman who killed the woman he only ever loved.”
Fundamentally, that doesn’t sound simple at all.
Hanna will premiere all eight episodes March 29th on Amazon Prime Video.