EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has ordered its second original scripted miniseries, about Scotland’s fight for independence from English rule in the 13th century. Scott Free Productions — the production house behind Discovery’s first original scripted mini, Klondike — is developing the new series chronicling William Wallace and Robert the Bruce’s bloody campaign for Scotland’s independence. The untitled project will be based on historical books by Nigel Tranter, including The Wallace and The Bruce Trilogy. Wallace, you’ll recall, was the title character played by Mel Gibson in the 1995 flick Braveheart. History wonks who did not look so favorably on some of the liberties taken with that Oscar-winning film, will like Discovery Channel’s rendition better, as it’s expected to stick more to the facts.
Forging into television, France’s Studiocanal has acquired a majority stake in Munich-based producer and distributor Tandem Communications, a specialist in international event-style miniseries and global TV distribution. Studiocanal, which recently backed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and will finance the Coen brothers’ upcoming Inside Llewyn Davis, has been focused on film until now and last year entered a $200 million slate financing deal with Anton Capital Entertainment. The strategic partnership with Tandem, for which financials were not disclosed, sees the company expand its reach onto the global TV market. Among Tandem’s recent efforts is the just-wrapped eight-hour miniseries World Without End, the follow-up to The Pillars Of The Earth, both of which it co-produced with Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Productions. The press release is below:
STUDIOCANAL took a majority stake in TANDEM COMMUNICATIONS, one of the leading European companies for international primetime Event TV productions and worldwide distribution of quality television programs.This partnership marks another step in the growth of STUDIOCANAL.
In 2011, STUDIOCANAL reinforced its production investments with a slate financing deal to co-finance their international films, and enlarged its distribution with an output deal with Lovefilm in the UK and Germany.
EXCLUSIVE: Last week, Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported that Ridley Scott is planning another Blade Runner film, while brother Tony Scott plots to do a remake of the 1969 Sam Peckinpah Western classic The Wild Bunch. These are just a couple of many film projects the indefatigable pair are involved in after careers that have spawned some of the most successful pictures of recent years. For Ridley, that would include three Best Director Academy Award nominations for the likes of Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Thelma and Louise, and for Tony a resume that includes such hits as Top Gun, Crimson Tide and most recently last year’s Unstoppable. He’s currently prepping Hell’s Angels, while Ridley is working on the 2012 summer release Prometheus. It’s remarkable that they actually have time for anything else, but since 1995 they have been heavily involved in their very prolific joint production company Scott Free, which not only produces their big-screen vehicles (and many others) but also has become a force in television, receiving 23 Emmy nominations this year in multiple categories covering scripted, nonfiction and miniseries. In 2010, it received the Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment.
Under the day-to-day guidance of president of television David Zucker, Scott Free has seen growing critical and ratings success in the medium even as both are often in far-flung corners of world making movies. When I caught up with them in a conference call last week, Tony was in London, Ridley was in the South of France, and David was in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, they were thrilled about the Emmy love and planned to be here for the Sept. 18 prime time ceremony, where the CBS hit drama series The Good Wife, now moving into Season 3, is nominated for nine Emmys and the elaborate Starz miniseries Pillars of the Earth collected seven nominations. Their nonfiction entry Gettysburg is a major player also, with seven nods in the Creative Arts awards to be handed out a week earlier.
The secret to all this success, they say, is smart creative choices and independence. “In terms of the creative ambitions of the company, as well as profitability, Ridley and Tony decided a few years ago to go entirely independent, so we have the flexibility to partner with ambitious and like-minded production companies like Tandem Communications but also the freedom to align on network projects or cable projects, with whatever studio or broadcaster that suits the material,” Zucker says. “I think the mandate that has always been the case for the company is that it’s very talent-driven, it’s very writer-driven, so when we happen upon something fiction or nonfiction that excites everyone and that Ridley and Tony want to pursue, then it’s all about finding the right home and about finding the right partner, and so the flexibility of being independent has been critical to being able to have this variety of projects.”
EXCLUSIVE: German-based Tandem Communications and Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Prods. have locked in the main cast of their $44 million eight-hour miniseries World Without End, a follow-up to The Pillars of the Earth, which the two companies also co-produced. Cynthia Nixon, Miranda Richardson, Ben Chaplin, Peter Firth (MI5), Charlotte Riley (The Duchess) and Tom Weston-Jones (Enlightenment) lead the cast of the mini, based on the novel by The Pillars of the Earth author Ken Follett. Michael Caton-Jones (Rob Roy) is directing from a script by John Pielmeier, who also adapted The Pillars of the Earth for Tandem and Scott Free. The two companies are co-producing World Without End with Canada’s Take 5 Prods. and Galafilm.
Set in England 200 years after the events in Pillars, World chronicles tough times for ordinary citizens who are being hit with enormous taxes by the King, the Church as England teeters on the brink of a devastating 100-year war with France, and Europe is bracing for a terrible plague, which will wipe out a third of the continent’s population. The mini centers on Caris (Riley), a visionary woman who, with her lover Merthin, builds a community that stands up to the Crown and the Church.