Time-travel is always kind of complicated. As humans, we like to know where we are and when we are.
But it’s infinitely tougher when you can’t control it. And you’re in love. And you’re naked.
That happens in “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (shown here) now in its third incarnation. It’s been a 2003 novel that sold 2.5 million copies in its first six year. … a 2009 movie that did fairly well, drawing $101 million worldwide …and now a six-part series on HBO — starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 15 — and HBO Max.
The longer format gave writer Steven Moffat room to play with the story, but he says he used restraint. “Everybody loves the book,” he told the Television Critics Association, “so there’s no messing around with the stuff that matters.”
Mostly, he slipped in some humor. From “Jekyll” to “Sherlock” to “Doctor Who,” that’s been his habit. “I’m not trying to be funny,” he said. “But life is funny. It’s how we cope.”
And time-travel can be a funny thing – or a perplexing one for the actors. “We could be shooting one year in the beginning of the day and an entirely different one at the end,” said Theo James, who stars.
Desmond Borgis, who plays his friend Gomez, echoed that. He was “a little dumbfounded at first.”
That’s understandable; it’s kind of an odd situation.
Audrey Niffenegger has said the idea came from frustrations in her own romances. She decided to create the ultimate frustration: Clare is madly in love with her husband Henry … who can’t control the travels. Suddenly, he disappears and finds himself in another time – naked and needing to scramble.
In his travels, he comes across his future wife when she’s 6 and 10 and 13 and beyond. Meanwhile, the grown-up Clare can only wait. “It’s not about time-travel,” Moffat said. “It’s about love and marriage.”
These are concepts he’s familiar with; he and Sue Vertue, a producer of the mini-series, have been married for 23 years. Facing a suggestion that the time-traveler was “grooming” his future wife, Vertue said that’s a common instinct. “It took me years to groom Steven to how I wanted him to be.”
The movie starred Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. For HBO, director David Nutter chose Rose Leslie — a Scottish redhead he’d directed in “Game of ThronesB,” where she was Ygritte – and James. (They’re shown here.0
Both were in the first season of “Downton Abbey,” but with different degrees of infamy. Leslie was the earnest housemaid who secretly taught herself to be a secretary; James was the Turkish diplomat who died in Lady Mary’s bed, almost destroying her reputation.
He went on to better roles, including the leading man in the first year of “Sanditon.” He was asked to return, but turned it down; there were other things to do, including time-travel.