Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films will travel back much further in time for its latest period drama — a Game Of Thrones-esque epic. The NBC-owned company is teaming with BBC America to co-produce ninth century-set eight-part historical series The Last Kingdom for BBC Two. Based on Bernard Cornwell’s book series The Saxon Stories, The Last Kingdom will combine real historical figures and events with fictional characters during the reign of Alfred the Great, who as King of Wessex fought off a Viking invasion. Replete with heroic deeds and epic battles, the series will also embrace politics, religion, warfare, courage, love, loyalty and the universal search for identity. Stephen Butchard (Good Cop, Five Daughters, House Of Saddam) is scripting. Production starts in the fall and casting has yet to be confirmed. Carnival’s Gareth Neame and Nigel Marchant will exec produce with Butchard. Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation) is co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes. Chrissy Skinns (Mr Selfridge) will produce.
The series slots into BBC Two’s strong drama portfolio. On deck, it’s also got the ambitious Wolf Hall, the adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.
Set in the year 872, when many of the separate kingdoms of what is now known as England have fallen to the invading Vikings, the great kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred the Great. Against this turbulent backdrop lives Uhtred, the hero of the stories. When his noble Saxon parents are killed by the Vikings, the marauders kidnap him and raise him as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are continually tested. On a quest to claim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and, ultimately, seek to recapture his ancestral lands. Read More »
Masterpiece has just confirmed that erstwhile Homeland star Damian Lewis will play Henry VIII opposite Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in upcoming miniseries Wolf Hall. The adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies is a Company Pictures and Playground co-production for BBC Two and Masterpiece. Peter Kosminsky (White Oleander) is directing the six-part drama from a script by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). The story charts Cromwell’s meteoric rise from lowly blacksmith’s son to Henry VIII’s closest advisor. Deadline reported in January that Lewis was in talks to play the Tudor King. The confirmed roster of actors now includes Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn; Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey; Joanne Whalley as Katherine of Aragon; Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss as Stephen Gardiner, Secretary to the King; Anton Lesser as Thomas More; Mathieu Amalric as Ambassador of Spain; Charity Wakefield as Mary Boleyn; Jessica Raine as Jane Rochford; Bernard Hill as the Duke of Norfolk; Richard Dillane as the Duke of Suffolk; Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Cromwell’s ward Rafe Sadler; Natasha Little as Cromwell’s wife Liz; and Saskia Reeves as her sister Johane.
Shooting has started in the southwest of England for air in 2015 on PBS’ Masterpiece and on BBC Two. Colin Callender will exec produce for Playground, John Yorke for Company Pictures, … Read More »
In late March, BBC Director General Tony Hall announced the broadcaster’s greatest commitment to the arts in a generation. Part of the plans outlined at the time called for a further three filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s History plays for BBC Two, including a new version of Richard III. Today, BBC Two confirmed on its Twitter feed that Benedict Cumberbatch will trade his kingdom for a horse as the titular king. The telefilm will be executive produced by Sam Mendes, produced by Downton Abbey‘s Rupert Ryle Hodges, written by Ben Power, and directed by former artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre Dominic Cooke in his screen directing debut. Cumberbatch, a Royal Court alum, said, “I can’t wait to work with Dominic Cooke again to bring this complex, funny and dangerous character to life.” The news comes as Cumberbatch is also gearing up for another Shakespearian lead: He’s playing Hamlet on stage in summer 2015 on the West End. Meanwhile, his Sherlock co-star, Martin Freeman, is also set to play Richard III, onstage at London’s Trafalgar Studios from July 1 to September 27 this year.
BBC Two Acquires Tom Rob Smith Thriller ‘London Spy’
Child 44 author Tom Rob Smith has created a new drama series that’s been picked up by BBC Two. London Spy is a five-part contemporary thriller that sees an innocent young man drawn into a dangerous world of espionage. In the center of London is a street with the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service on one side and the headquarters of gay clubbing on the other. A chance romance between two people from opposite sides of that street takes a turn when one of them disappears. The series will shoot this year and air in 2015. Smith is producing; Juliette Howell, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are exec producing for Working Title Television. Polly Hill exec produces for BBC Two. Smith’s Child 44 is being adapted as a feature directed by Daniel Espinosa and produced by Ridley Scott. The film stars Tom Hardy, who signed on Friday for the second season of BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders. Read More »
Erstwhile Homeland star Damian Lewis could step into the role of King Henry VIII in BBC Two and Masterpiece‘s major adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Mark Rylance is playing Thomas Cromwell in the six-part serial and Deadline has confirmed that Lewis is in talks for the role of the Tudor King. A deal is not yet closed. The Daily Mail first reported word of the “complex negotiations.” Lewis is currently filming Werner Herzog’s Queen Of The Desert with Nicole Kidman. The Wolf Hall project is due to start shooting in the spring. It follows Cromwell’s rise from the lowly son of a blacksmith to becoming Henry’s closest advisor. BAFTA-winning helmer Peter Kosminsky is directing from a script by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Peter Straughan. Wolf Hall is a co-production from Company Pictures, Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment, and Masterpiece for BBC Two in association with BBC Worldwide.
Related: Masterpiece Boards BBC2′s ‘Wolf Hall’ & ‘Bring Up The Bodies’
BBC Two Preps Musical Telefilm, British Airways Docu
BBC Two has a pair of new projects on deck: a musical TV movie and an inside look at national carrier British Airways. Drama Tubby And Enid will star Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton and Olivier Award winner Michael Ball and is an adaptation of Victoria Wood’s stage play, That Day We Sang. Hilary Bevan Jones’ Endor is producing with shooting to start January 6. The story’s roots are found in the recording of Henry Purcell’s Nymphs And Shepherds as sung by the Manchester Children’s Choir in 1929. Jumping ahead 40 years, it focuses on a reunion of the same choir being filmed for a documentary. Wood writes and will direct. Meanwhile, BBC Two has greenlighted an observational documentary series about British Airways. The three-part series will feature unprecedented access to the airline and promises to be the “most in-depth analysis of British Airways in 25 years.” Lion Television is making the doc for BBC Two.
British And French TV Networks Celebrate Nelson Mandela
British and French networks are turning over time to tributes to Nelson Mandela this weekend. BBC One aired the special Nelson Mandela: The Fight For Freedom on Friday night and also will extend its news coverage. Sky1 aired the special Nelson Mandela: The Struggle Is My Life, while the news division will have presenter Jeremy Thompson live in South Africa from Saturday. I’m also told the funeral service for Mandela, who died Thursday, will be aired live. Channel 4 ran Nelson Mandela Superstar, a celebration of his life and legacy on Friday night local, and at the same time, ITV also aired a special program. In France, pubcaster France Télévisions’ France O and Franco-German channel Arte aired specials and documentaries. National network France 2 has scheduled Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman in an Oscar-nominated turn as Mandela, to air on Saturday night. Eastwood shot part of that movie in France.
Related: Nelson Mandela’s Death: Hollywood Reacts
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Hacking Trial Lawyer: Brooks And Coulson Had 6-Year Affair
The phone-hacking trial taking place in London was the source of new revelations Thursday as prosecuting attorney Andrew Edis told jurors that defendants Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson carried on a six-year “secret” affair from 1998-2004. Brooks is the former head of News International (now News UK), the British press arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and Coulson was editor of the now-closed News Of The World before leaving to join Prime Minister David Cameron’s team as his communications director. As part of his opening remarks, Edis stressed that he was not bringing up the relationship between Brooks and Coulson, which the prosecution said was evident from a letter to Coulson that was found on one of Brooks’ computers, to intrude on their privacy or pass judgment. “The point that I’m going to make in relation to that letter is that over the relevant period, what Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too. And what Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too — that’s the point.” He told the court the affair spanned the period covered by the phone-hacking conspiracy charges the pair is facing, according to The Times. “Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy,” Edis said, “and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?” At the time of the letter in 2004, Brooks was editor of The Sun and Coulson was at NOTW. Read More »
BBC Two and Masterpiece are hooking up for a “major” adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Tony and Olivier Award-winner Mark Rylance is now confirmed to play Thomas Cromwell in the six-part serial that follows Cromwell’s rise from the lowly son of a blacksmith to becoming King Henry VIII’s closest advisor in the Tudor court. BAFTA-winning helmer Peter Kosminsky is directing from a script by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Peter Straughan. Wolf Hall is a co-production from Company Pictures, Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment, and Masterpiece for BBC Two in association with BBC Worldwide.
The project was first tipped in 2011 as a four-part adaptation of just 2009’s Wolf Hall, but in 2012, Mantel’s second book in the Cromwell trilogy, Bring Up The Bodies, won her a second Booker prize and the miniseries will combine the two under the Wolf Hall title. Both have been best-sellers and gave Mantel the rare distinction of winning two Bookers, the UK’s highest literary honor. Shooting starts in spring 2014 for an as-yet determined airdate on BBC Two in the UK and Masterpiece in the U.S. in 2015. Read More »
‘Generation War’ Is Rare BBC Two Pickup To Air In Foreign Language
BBC Two has picked up the three-part German miniseries Generation War. The drama will air in its original language, the first time BBC Two has premiered a foreign language series since 2001′s The Kingdom. (BBC Four, on the other hand, airs such subtitled shows as Borgen and Wallander.) Generation War traces the fate of young men and women who fought in World War II. The Band Of Brothers-like story is from ZDF, teamWorx and Beta Film and scored record ratings on ZDF with a 24% market share. It also triggered a local debate about personal guilt in WWII. Music Box took U.S. rights at MIPTV in April.
South Korean Star Ha Ji-won Inks With UTA
South Korean actress Ji-won Ha is readying for a Hollywood crossover. The Asian TV and film star has signed with UTA for representation in all areas and has been taking meetings stateside. Ha’s UTA reps are looking at domestic and international film roles, TV, and digital media and endorsements. They are also focusing on developing Korean and American co-productions around the award-winning performer known for the popular romantic comedy Secret Garden as well as horror pics Nightmare and Phone, period drama Damo, disaster blockbuster Haeundae and action film Sector 7. Ha continues to be represented by HaeWaDal Entertainment Co. Read More »
BBC Two has ordered Legacy, a one-off movie that will slot into its Cold War Moment block. Written by Paula Milne and directed by Pete Travis, the spy thriller reteams the duo whose 2009 apartheid drama Endgame won a Peabody Award. Boardwalk Empire‘s Charlie Cox, The Hour‘s Romola Garai, Sherlock‘s Andrew Scott and My Week With Marilyn‘s Simon Russell Beale are starring in the film that’s based on Alan Judd’s 2001 book. The story is set in 1970s London during the height of the Cold War when a young spy discovers the disturbing truth about his father’s complex past. Travis directed last year’s Dredd and scripted Sean Penn-starrer The Gunman. Crawford Collins, Milne and Judd are exec producing Legacy for Slim Film + Television; Lucy Richer is exec producer for the BBC and Rob Bullock is producer.
Rebekah Brooks Pleads Not Guilty To Multiple Charges
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to criminal charges stemming from her tenure at the company. Brooks entered her plea at the Southwark crown court in London today. She has been charged with various offenses under three separate investigations that were convened following the phone-hacking scandal at the News Of The World tabloid. According to reports, she pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying officials for stories. She also entered a not guilty plea on two charges connected to conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Several other defendants, including Brooks’ husband, also pleaded not guilty to charges leveled at them. Brooks is expected to stand trial in September.
Screen Media Imports French Thriller ‘Paris Countdown’
Screen Media Films has acquired U.S. rights to French crime thriller Paris Countdown, the directorial debut of writer Edgar Marie. An October theatrical release is planned with VOD available in September. Olivier Marchal and Jacques Gamblin star as co-owners of a Paris nightclub who are lured into a drug deal that goes bad. Tortured by police, they negotiate their freedom while their liaison goes to prison. Six years later, the nightmare begins again when the psychopath is … Read More »