David Cronenberg to Direct and Produce Drama Pilot KNIFEMAN About 18th Century Surgeon John Hunter

     March 12, 2012


David Cronenberg is teaming up with Media Rights Capital for a new television drama, Knifeman.  The story sounds like just the sort of thing that would lure the only director listed on the Wikipedia page for “body horror”: “[Knifeman] centers on the trials and triumphs of a radical, self-educated surgeon delivering a visceral portrait of the extraordinary and unorthodox lengths he will go to uncover the secrets of the human body.”  The book is based on the Wendy Moore novel The Knife Man, a biography about 18th century surgeon John Hunter.  THR mentions neither Hunter nor his century, so I wonder if this is a modern-day adaptation inspired by Hunter.  I hope not.  The period tale sounds much more interesting than your typical medical drama, and makes enough sense for Cronenberg coming on the heels of the A Dangerous Method, a biopic about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Cronenberg will direct the pilot, and stay on as executive producer.  Rolin Jones will script Knifeman based on a story he developed with his fellow Friday Night Lights writer Ron Fitzgerald.  Hit the jump for a synopsis of Moore’s book.


In an era when bloodletting was considered a cure for everything from colds to smallpox, surgeon John Hunter was a medical innovator, an eccentric, and the person to whom anyone who has ever had surgery probably owes his or her life. In this sensational and macabre story, we meet the surgeon who counted not only luminaries Benjamin Franklin, Lord Byron, Adam Smith, and Thomas Gainsborough among his patients but also “resurrection men” among his close acquaintances. A captivating portrait of his ruthless devotion to uncovering the secrets of the human body, and the extraordinary lengths to which he went to do so—including body snatching, performing pioneering medical experiments, and infecting himself with venereal disease—this rich historical narrative at last acknowledges this fascinating man and the debt we owe him today. [Amazon]

Cronenberg recently wrapped production on his next film, CosmopolisRobert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand, Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, and Mathieu Amalric star.