Brian Helgeland Says Netflix Algorithm Rejected 'A Knight's Tale' Sequel

For years, streaming had been a great home to canceled series, revivals, and sequels. However, an attempt to get Netflix to bite on a sequel to the late Heath Ledger’s medieval rom-com “A Knight’s Tale” was recently passed on thanks to a clinical computer assessment. According to the original film’s director, Brian Helgeland (“Payback,” “Legend”), in an interview with Inverse, the filmmaker had recently shopped around an “A Knight’s Tale 2” sequel to Sony and Netflix. Both studios passed on the project, but he revealed that the streamer made their decision based on an internal algorithm method.

Helgeland said of the never-made sequel, “I pitched it to Sony because they own the rights, and it seemed like they were interested in making it with Netflix, releasing it as a Netflix movie. My understanding is that Netflix tested this sequel idea through their algorithms, which indicated that it would not be successful. A Knight’s Tale seems to get more popular with every passing year; it’s the strangest thing.”

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If you’re not familiar with the original movie from 2001, the satirical film centers on a peasant squire, William Thatcher, played by Ledger. After his master dies, fueled by his desire for food and glory, he creates a new identity for himself as a knight.

What could the rejected sequel have been about? The filmmaker shared some potential plotlines, including a pirate-themed follow-up likely inspired by the popularity of Disney’s “The Pirates of The Caribbean” franchise at the time. In one scenario, Shannyn Sossamon’s Jocelyn would be kidnapped, leading to the discovery of a treasure map. Another idea was a film centered around William’s daughter after the character had passed away.

“When we finished ‘A Knight’s Tale,’ we were already thinking about making the sequel as a pirate film,” the director said of the film ideas being tossed around at the time. “The plot revolved around Count Adhemar kidnapping Jocelyn and taking her to Constantinople. They end up as galley slaves after their boat is captured by pirates. There’s a prisoner on the boat who has a treasure map tattooed on his back.”

“There was another idea pitched to me that was all about William’s daughter,” Helgeland added when musing on the other angle they wanted to pursue for a sequel after the death of Ledger. “Paul Bettany called me after he had dinner with Alan Tudyk, and the guys had an idea that William had passed away during a war. However, William has a teenage daughter who wants to joust, but she’s not allowed to because she’s a woman.”

While Helgeland might be right that “A Knight’s Tale” has become popular on streaming and DVD, one can understand why a studio might not think it merited a sequel. For one, the first film was a success because of Heath Ledger, and replicating that level of unique charisma would be hard, many impossible to achieve. And two, “A Knight’s Tale” only grossed $117 million off a $65 million budget in 2001; not exactly spectacular numbers when you factor in promotion and advertising. It’s a fun little curiosity, but without Ledger, it might have also simply been a film of its time and moment best left unspoiled.