Ian Rankin hints that next Rebus could be younger actor

Ian Rankin.
Ian Rankin.
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Ian Rankin has revealed that fans’ favourite Ken Stott is set to be replaced by a much younger actor when Inspector Rebus returns to the nation’s TV screens.

The bestselling author revealed that the character could be as young as in his forties when he is portrayed on screen again.

Although officially retired in the most recent novels, the character was 40 when he made his debut in Rankin’s 1987 novel, Knots and Crosses.

Rebus is being re-imagined for a TV comeback by Gregory Burke, the Fife-born writer best known for the hit National Theatre of Scotland play Black Watch.

Rankin had previously said he had his “fingers crossed” that Stott would be returning to the role, which he last played in 2007.

Months later the 63-year-old actor, who took over from John Hannah in the lead role, said he would “jump at the chance” to step back into the detective’s shoes – but admitted he had not been approached by the makers of a new TV series.

It emerged last year that Burke had been tasked with creating a “fresh and revisionist take in every way to introduce Rebus and Edinburgh to a new generation” after the TV rights to the book series were snapped up by production company Eleventh Hour Films.

At the time, Burke said Rankin’s novels provided “the perfect material to make a thrilling series about crime in the modern world.”

The new Rebus TV series is in development at the same time as the first ever play featuring Rankin’s characters is about to staged. It will premiere at Birmingham Rep next month before visiting the King’s in Edinburgh in October.

Scottish playwright Rona Munro has written a brand new story, Long Shadows, which will see Rebus played by Coronation Street star Charles Lawson.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rankin said: “To get Rebus on TV the first time was long and fraught. John Hannah did it, bless him. It wouldn’t have got made otherwise.

“The fans were happier with Ken Stott. They felt physically that he was a much better fit for Rebus. It still pops up on late at night on television.

“They only made about 12 episodes, but it keeps popping up again and again. Increasingly it wasn’t based on the books and it was taken down from two hours to one hour.

“A production company came to me last year and said they would love to do Rebus properly, over six, eight, ten or more hour-long episodes.

“He [Burke] is working on it just now but I think he wants to have a younger Rebus, in his forties or fifties.

“Black Watch was a fantastic play. Gregory also wrote a great film, ‘71, about a soldier trapped behind the scenes and trying to get back to his base in Belfast during the Troubles. He is very good at looking at big, macho characters and what they do to the world and what the world does to them.

“I’m leaving him to it: I said, ‘I don’t want to see it. Just you work away on it, pal’.”