After 300: Rise Of An Empire had an opening-week global gross of $136 million and resuscitated the franchise potential of a first film that ended with a bloody pile of 300 dead Spartans, the town is asking: who the heck is this Sullivan Stapleton, avenger of Spartans, scourge of Persians and the latest guy in town with a star look and a six-pack? And more importantly, when is he available to reinforce to Hollywood that he’s got the goods to become its next leading man?
I caught up with Stapleton as he was home in Melbourne, recuperating from a concussion suffered in Bangkok while he was there filming Strike Back, the Cinemax series he stars in with Philip Winchester. He has done barely any press. That knock on the head kept him from being able to fly, which knocked him out of the chance to do the tour for the 300 sequel. A few things about Stapleton: he’s Australian, and like most of the actors who grew up in the business there before coming to these shores, he’s got a working-class attitude and is not at all full of himself. When you speak to him, you call him Sully. He looks like an edgier version of Pierce Brosnan, and in an age where Hollywood continues to build franchises around young actors who’ve barely passed puberty, Stapleton is (gasp!) 36 years old and is the first new face to come along in the action game in awhile who actually looks like a man. Though he will the first to admit that getting older takes a toll.
“My head is good now, but I’ve been thinking I must be getting older, because I took a hit to the head that hurt a bit more than it did when I fell all the time when I was a kid,” he said. “It was an accident, my head hit the road, and they put me in a hospital in Bangkok and then I came here to my mom’s house for rest, relaxation and more tests. Unfortunately, it means that I couldn’t do the 300 tour, which was sad for me because I love that film. I am so thankful to the bosses at Warner Bros for giving me that job, and the guys from Strike Back who have allowed me time to get over this head wound. Obviously, that opening weekend helped the cause.” Read More »
Cinemax‘s first primetime drama series Strike Back had been filming its 10-episode fourth and final season in Bangkok, Thailand when one of its two stars, Sullivan Stapleton, suffered a serious injury while exploring the town in his free time. As a result, filming of the series will take a six-month break so he can recover. Because of Strike Back‘s action nature, the roles of stars Stapleton and Philip Winchester are physically demanding, often involving stunt work, which requires them to be in perfect physical condition that often includes intensive pre-filming training. Production will continue in Thailand through March as scheduled before it takes a break, resuming in the fall in Hungary. In the next few weeks, the series will be filming around Stapleton. He stars in the upcoming 300: Rise Of An Empire, which opens next week, so I hear Stapleton had filmed a lot of his Strike Back scenes in order to accommodate the standard carve-out given to actors on series who have a movie to promote. His injury will likely impact his promotional plans for 300.
Cinemax‘s first primetime drama series Strike Back will come to an end next year. The pay cable network has ordered a 10-episode fourth and final season of the action drama, which will shoot in Asia and Europe and air in 2014. Cinemax/HBO will once again co-produce with partners Left Bank and Sky, which will air the series in the UK. Also returning are Left Bank’s Andy Harries and Sky’s Cameron Roach as executive producers, Michael J. Bassett as co-executive producer, writer and director and James Dormer as co-executive producer and writer, series producer Michael Casey, and head of production Marigo Kehoe. Season 3 of Strike Back, starring Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton, wrapped its run on October 18. It was succeeded by the original British Strike Back series, which is currently airing on Cinemax as Strike Back: Origins. With its successful four-season run, Strike Back put Cinemax on the original programming map and ushered in such follow-up series as recent breakout Banshee.
The British series that spawned the Cinemax action dramaStrike Back is getting a U.S. run on the HBO sibling network. Branded Strike Back: Origins, the six-episode series starring Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead) will debut on Cinemax on October 25, taking over Strike Back‘s Friday 10 PM slot. The Cinemax version, a co-production with British satcaster Sky and UK-based Left Bank Pictures, was inspired by the Armitage- and Lincoln-starring Sky/Left Bank series, which in turn was based on Chris Ryan’s book of the same name. The follow-up series introduced a brand new character with Armitage appearing in the first episode for continuity. Strike Back: Origins tells the story of John Porter (Armitage), an SAS soldier who realizes a connection between a current hostage situation and a mission he ran in Iraq in 2003. He appeals to Hugh Collinson (Lincoln), a fellow team member from that mission who now runs the stealth counterterrorism unit Section 20 for the UK government, to allow him to join the rescue mission. Check out the trailer:
Dougray Scott (Desperate Housewives), Milauna Jackson (Blood Done Sign My Name) and Robson Green (Wire In The Blood) have been added to the cast of Cinemax‘s action drama Strike Back as it starts production on a 10-episode Season 3. (Watch the teaser below.) The trio joins returning cast members Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton, Rhona Mitra, Michelle Lukes and Liam Garrigan. Green plays a new member of Section 20, Scott a rogue operative James Leatherby, and Jackson is a key player who crosses paths with the counterterrorism team. In Strike Back’s third season, counterterrorism unit Section 20 pursues a deadly terrorist network from Colombia to Beirut to Europe, uncovering deadly plots that reach to the West. Returning directors are Michael J. Bassett (who also serves as co-executive producer), Julian Holmes and Paul Wilmshurst; returning writers are Simon Burke, James Dormer, John Simpson and Richard Zajdlic. Cinemax is producing with Left Bank Pictures and Sky.
Cinemax has renewed its first primetime drama series Strike Back for a third season with a 10-episode order for a 2013 premiere. The third season, which will shoot in South Africa and Hungary, will once again be produced by Cinemax/HBO, Left Bank and Sky, which will air the series in the U.K. Returning for season three will be Left Bank’s Andy Harries as executive producer, series producer Michael Casey and head of production Marigo Kehoe. Others returning for season three include director Michael Bassett and writers Simon Burke, James Dormer and Richard Zajdlic. As it did with the second-season renewal announcement, Cinemax would not confirm which cast members will continue in Season 3 “due to plot spoilers in upcoming episodes of season two.”
The Strike Back renewal comes two weeks before the premiere of Cinemax’s second original primetime drama, Hunted. It will be followed by Banshee in 2013.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Rhona Mitra is finalizing a deal to land the new female lead on Cinemax’s Strike Back in the action drama’s upcoming 10-episode second season. She will play the beautiful, cunning and ultimately ruthless Capt. Rachel Dalton of the British military who is offered the position of head of Section 20 after a long stint working in North Africa. Mitra’s character is expected to fill the void left by the demise of Amanda Mealing’s Col. Eleanor Grant in the first season finale of Strike Back. The series, whose second season is slated to begin filming soon in South Africa, is produced by Cinemax/HBO, Left Bank and Sky, which airs the series in the U.K. Strike Back stars Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester. Season 1 told the story of a charismatic former U.S. Special Forces operative (Stapleton) who joins with a stealth British military unit when a resourceful international terrorist group plots a major attack. British-born Mitra, whose series credits include The Practice, Boston Legal and Nip/Tuck, is repped by Gersh, Untitled and UK’s Ken McReddie.
Cinemax’s first primetime original series, actioner Strike Back, got off to a promising start Friday, drawing 567,000 viewers for its premiere 10 PM across Cinemax’s universe of 16.7 million homes. That was Cinemax’s best ratings performance in the time slot in six years, since a broadcast of Titanic in 2005. Including the 11 PM and 12 AM repeats, Strike Back averaged 1.1 million viewers. The debut of Strike Back was on par with the 2010 premiere of Starz’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which drew 659,000 viewers in the same Friday 10 PM slot when available in 21.6 million homes. Of the more recent pay cable premieres, Strike Back was comparable to Showtime’s Episodes and Starz’s Torchwood: Miracle Day when the channels’ distribution is taken into account. Here is a list of recent pay cable premieres:
Meanwhile, there is promising signs for Lifetime’s new drama Against the Wall following its soft start three weeks ago with 1.8 million viewers. In Week 2, the series held even in total viewers and ticked up 2% in adults 18-49 to 651,000. Then, in its third airing last night, the family/cop drama grew in all ratings categories, including total viewers (1.9 million, up 6%) and adults 18-49 (705,000, up 8%).
HBO’s sibling pay-cable channel Cinemax is venturing into original programming with its first scripted primetime drama, Strike Back, a 10-hour action series it will co-produce with British satcaster Sky and U.K.-based Left Bank Pictures (The Special Relationship). The project, written by The X-Files alum Frank Spotnitz and British TV writer Richard Zadjlic (EastEnders), is inspired by the Sky series Strike Back, which in turn was based on Chris Ryan’s book of the same name. That series, produced by Left Bank Pictures, premiered last summer and starred Richard Armitage as John Porter, former British Special Forces soldier drafted back into service by MI6. The Cinemax/Sky version will have new settings/storylines and will introduce new characters, led by Damien Scott (Animal Kingdom‘s Sullivan Stapleton), a charismatic former U.S. Special Forces operative who teams up with a British military unit led by Section 20 officer Michael Stone bridge (Fringe‘s Philip Winchester) to stop an international terrorist group. The series is slated to film in South Africa and Hungary from Feb-July 2011 for a premiere on Cinemax in the summer. Executive producing are Left Bank’s Andy Harries and Sky1′s Elaine Pyke, with Dan Percival (HBO’s Dirty War) and Spotnitz co-exec producing and Michael Casey producing. Percival, Bill Eagles and Alex Holmes will direct.