‘The Name of the Rose’ Cast: Who Is Starring in the New TV Adaptation of the Umberto Eco Novel?

SundanceTV has announced a new premiere date for its upcoming limited series The Name of the Rose. The show will debut on Thursday, May 23 at 10/9c, the network revealed. A tale of murder and intrigue set in a 14th-century Italian monastery, it’s adapted from the best-selling novel by Umberto Eco.

John Turturro plays the lead

The Name of the Rose cast
Richard Sammel as Malachi, John Turturro as William of Baskerville, Maurizio Lombardi as Berengar, and Damian Hardung as Adso in The Name of the Rose | Fabio Lovino/SundanceTV

John Turturro will star in the eight-part series as William Baskerville, a Franciscan monk who travels with a novice, Adso von Melk (Damian Hardung), to a monastery in the Alps. When a series of murders occurs, Baskerville and von Melk begin to investigate. At the same time, they must deal with Bernard Gui (Rupert Everett), a “merciless inquisitor” who prosecutes anyone who speaks out against the Pope.

In addition to Turturro, Hardung, and Everett, the series also stars Michael Emerson, Sebastian Koch, James Cosmo, Richard Sammel, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, and Greta Scarano.

The book sold 50 million copies

The Name of the Rose was Eco’s debut novel, and it has sold more than 50 million copies since it was first published in Italy in 1980. (It was translated into English in 1983.)

The dense book, which is a detective story that also deals with semiotics, philosophy, and medieval theological disputes, was previously made into a movie in 1986. That film starred Sean Connery as Baskerville and Christian Slater as von Melk. Eco, who died in 2016, seemed to think that adaptation didn’t quite capture the spirit of his novel.

“A book like this is a club sandwich, with turkey, salami, tomato, cheese, lettuce. And the movie is obliged to choose only the lettuce or the cheese, eliminating everything else — the theological side, the political side. It’s a nice movie,” he told the Guardian in 2011.

Turturro’s character has been compared to Sherlock Holmes

Christian Slater and Sean Connery
Christian Slater and Sean Connery in the 1986 film version of The Name Of The Rose | 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

The character of Baskerville isn’t unlike one of the world’s most famous fictional detectives, Jan Diedrichsen, General Manager, SundanceTV and Sundance Now, said when the series was announced last year.

“William of Baskerville is nothing less than a medieval Sherlock Holmes. The story is beloved because it combines the best of serialized crime drama – in the vein of SundanceTV’s Top of the Lake – with a dramatic, wildly visual setting rarely depicted on television,” he said.

Turturro has said that he was determined that the new adaptation honor the original book. In fact, he only agreed to take the part if producers stayed true to Eco’s work.

“I read the book and I loved it. I started writing to [director] Giacomo [Battiato] to say, ‘Why isn’t there more Eco, this is eight hours, you don’t have to reduce it,” Turturro told Variety. “I said, ‘If you put more of Eco in, then I’m interested.’”

He added that the story is surprisingly relevant, despite the medieval setting.

“I thought it was a very relevant book, maybe more at this particular time than even when it came out,” Turturro said. “You look at all the stuff that’s exploding all over, whether it’s the strongmen who are in vogue … all of the scandals in the church … [and] men’s oppression of women – it’s all in the book.”

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