Los Angeles, Feb. 14: Tarzan is to lose his English heritage and be reinvented as a brash American youth while Jane is to become an argumentative police detective in a new primetime television series about a 21st-century version of the Lord of the Jungle.
The programme, being made by the same American channel that turned Superman from a cape-wearing superhero into an angst-ridden teenager in the serial Smallville, is to be set in contemporary New York.
To the distress of purist fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s stories, the new Tarzan will be a very different character from that in the books.
He will still have been in a plane crash when a baby, resulting in his parents being killed and the boy brought up by animals in the jungle.
However, as a young man he will be found not by English relatives but by his uncle, the head of an American corporation known as Greystoke Enterprises. He will be taken back to New York where he will listen to hip-hop music and watch cable television.
The series, called simply Tarzan, will revolve around his relationship with Jane — he meets the New York Police Department detective when he bounces into her on a busy street while trying to escape his uncle.
The Warner Brothers channel, which has commissioned the pilot for the series, plans to broadcast it this autumn.
Eric Kripke, the writer, said the series would “combine the icon of Tarzan, the romance of true young love and the action of a great action series”.
Travis Fimmel, a 23-year-old Australian who models underwear for Calvin Klein, plays the lead role, previously taken by, among others, Johnny Weissmuller and Christopher Lambert. Sarah Wayne Callies, a previous unknown, is cast as Jane.
A 60 ft billboard of Fimmel clad only in white underpants had to be removed from Oxford Circus last year after motoring groups said it caused traffic jams when women drivers slowed down to look at it.
Fimmel was raised on a farm near Echuca in the Outback and now lives in Los Angeles, studying acting.
The president of Warner Brothers television, Peter Roth, said: “Travis is a wonderful young man, he’s got not simply a great look but that feeling that you get that this is going to be a big star.” It has yet to be determined whether he will be wearing a loincloth in the new series.
The channel hopes Tarzan will repeat the success of Smallville, which is currently showing on Channel 4. The series was Warner Brothers’s most successful debut show last year.