News

Love/Hate stars return for RTE murder series Dublin Murders

18 June 2019

RTE’s new big-budget crime series based on the hit novels of author Tana French will hit TV screens in the autumn and run for eight episodes.

Tipped to become one of the key highlights of its autumn/winter 2019 schedule, Dublin Murders has been filmed on the streets of Dublin and will star Killian Scott and Sarah Greene.

It will see Scott reuniting with his former Love/Hate co-star Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, alongside Moe Dunford, Ian Kenny and Eugene O’Hare.

Set during the height of the economic boom, Scott takes on the role of Detective Rob Reilly, who has partnered up with Detective Cassie Maddox, played by Greene.

Based on the first two books of French’s Dublin Murder Squad series and adapted for the screen by Sarah Phelps, the detectives are tasked with solving the murders of two seemingly unconnected women.

One of the victims is a talented young ballerina, while the other is a vivacious, free-spirited woman who is found stabbed in a derelict famine cottage.

Co-produced with the BBC and US TV network Starz, the show is described as a “dark psychological mystery with a tap root that drops deep down into Ireland’s past, foreshadows the future and brings insight to its present”.

“This series, set during the height of the Celtic Tiger financial boom of the millennium, will focus on two murder investigations led by ambitious and charismatic detectives Rob Reilly and Cassie Maddox,” said the BBC.

Speaking about his new role, Scott said: “Sarah Phelps has beautifully adapted Tana French’s compelling novels into a complex and dark exploration of memory, identity and the potentially devastating consequences of pursuing truth.”

Greene said that the writing was “brilliant and dark”.

“It’s thrilling to give Tana French’s words a new life on screen through the wonderful Sarah Phelps,” she said.

Dublin company Element Pictures has also come on board with the production, which is currently available for sponsorship with RTE for its eight-episode run.

Directed by Saul Dibb, the series will focus on French’s first two books In The Woods and The Likeness.

Variety: Stephen Butchard talks Baghdad Central at Series Mania

18 June 2019

The first scene of Channel 4’s upcoming “Baghdad Central,” created and written by Stephen Butchard and lead-directed by Alice Troughton, captures, with a jolt, the hectic hubbub of an ordinary street scene in Baghdad: One man fixes a container, banging it rhythmically as if it were a drum; there’s the table of street conversation, a car tooting, people throwing a dice, a woman selling fruit.

Produced by Fremantle’s Euston Films and sold by Fremantle, “Baghdad Central” surprises in other ways. Apart from a brief prelude, it unspools from November 2003, when Baghdad has fallen to Coalition forces, but is told majorly from the point of view of normal occupied Iraqis, especially former inspector Muhsin al-Khafaji (Waleed Zuaiter, “Omar,” “Altered Carbon”) of the Iraqi police, once an upright respected cop, and his two daughters, the gravely ill Mrouj (July Namir, “Homeland,” “Collateral”) and the estranged Sawsan (Leem Lubany, “Omar,” “Condor”).

When Sansaw goes missing, Khafali begins to suspect she has joined the resistance. Offered a job as police by Frank Temple (Bertie Carvel, “Jonathan Strange”), an ex-British cop working for the Coalition, Khafaji accepts in order to get Green Zone medical treatment for Mrouj and also get to Sawsan before Coalition forces do.

With the wound daily tension of a mafia movie – as a collaborator, Khafali could be shot at any moment – “Baghdad Central” builds very fast into a survival thriller set in a foreign land, and told from an unusual POV, but utterly relatable as human drama. And Khafaji emerges as a hero for the times.

Kate Harwood, Butchard and Troughton serve as executive producers, Jonathan Curling (“The Secret”) as producer.

Variety talked to BAFTA-nominated Butchard (“The Last Kingdom,” “House of Saddam”) before the series’ world premiere in main International Competition at Series Mania:

My impression is that you wanted to create a series which was totally foreign in setting and main protagonists, Khafaji and  Mrouj, and totally relatable in its backbone: Khafaji’s battle to save his daughters, whatever it takes. Could you comment?

I think your impression is absolutely correct – what make this story universal or international is that at its core, is the relationship between and the love of a father for his daughters. His daughters are in danger and therefore he must and will do everything in his power to help them, in this case, survive. The backdrop of Iraq in 2003 adds a real and constant danger, as well as a political and global event that has rarely been explored from the viewpoint of an ordinary family; this adds texture, intrigue, suspense and of course threat – but the family remain front and centre.

“Baghdad Central” soon emerges as a portrait of Khafaji, described by Kate Harwood as “a hero for the modern age.” Would you agree with Kate?

I certainly wouldn’t disagree with Kate – she’s far too bright and clever. For me, Khafaji’s heroism evolves, he doesn’t choose to be a hero, and the only world he wishes to changes is that of his family; there is simply no avoiding the danger and hurdles that present themselves. Because he is a father, he has no choice but to take risks and keep on moving forward – but as he moves forward, he grows, facing and overcoming the dangers make him stronger, more determined and indeed he comes to realize that he should have been much braver in the past.

Set in a world which seems to be falling apart, and whose rulers are absurd,”Baghdad Central” appears to capture a broad contemporary zeitgeist. But would you agree?

I think there is a contemporary resonance; we tend to believe (or rather hope) that our leaders are smarter than us and act in our best interests – but sadly and too often, that isn’t the case. The ordinary man and woman do not give themselves enough credit – if our elected leaders behaved with the same integrity, loyalty, compassion, truthfulness and commitment of say a parent… I would envision a totally different political landscape. Unfortunately, hubris takes a role and power corrupts to a greater or lesser degree. We see this across the world and today is no different.

The series also comes in at the invasion from the POV of Iraqis who are portrayed as far more cultured than most Coalition members. Wanting to secure Iraq, the Coalition has no idea or even desire to win the hearts of its people. The music brings out a note of absurdity. Could you comment?

Yes, we see things from an Iraqi perspective – but that perspective is also familiar and grounded because it is a family’s perspective. To date, we have predominantly seen these events through the prism of politicians, soldiers and journalists, but rarely (if at all) from the POV of an ordinary family: a family that must live every minute with the consequences of the war; they must survive. What was important, was to identified and show that the love and fractures within this family are no different to the love and fractures within families worldwide – Khafaji and his daughters are us. It is the world in which they exist that changes, and as that world begins to change, as they are confronted by threat, danger and a loss of hope – as the promised liberation becomes an apparent occupation – the family too begin to change and react; rebel.

As for the Coalition personnel, the vast majority of actual boots-on-the-ground men and women, as individuals, were not absurd at all, they were predominantly professional people tasked with an impossible job. Like the Iraqis, they were failed by their leaders – who were confident of winning a fight, but had little idea how to win the peace, keep the peace or even who to trust. War, by its nature, brings fear and barbarity; but in Captain Parodi, it is important that we show a good man doing his very best by the men under his command AND the Iraqi people. He too, however, is sucked into the murky world of grey and is faced with the choice of duty and justice.

The score, I think, is brilliant and clever, evoking game-playing, intrigue and agenda’s… a “trust no-one” vibe; nothing is as it seems!

What were the main challenge of adapting Elliott Colla’s novel into a six-part series. 

Elliot’s novel was a beautiful, thoughtful inspiration. The series is derivative from the novel, but not an adaptation. The challenge in creating the series was the eternal challenge of finding a truthful and gripping story and ensuring that story is told through characters we believe in.

When will “Baghdad Central” air after Series Mania and will it air or be released elsewhere, outside the U.K.?

U.K. transmission date is in the hands of Channel 4 – whose support for the project has been quite magnificent.

CASTING ANNOUNCED FOR BAGHDAD CENTRAL

26 September 2018

 

Waleed Zuaiter, Bertie Carvel, Clara Khoury, Leem Lubany, Neil Maskell and Corey Stoll join an international cast for Channel 4’s new six-part crime series, Baghdad Central, written and created by BAFTA-nominated writer Stephen Butchard (The Last Kingdom, House of Saddam) based on the novel by Elliott Colla. Production has begun in Morocco.

Charlotte Spencer, July Namir, Tawfeek Barhom, Youssef Kerkour, Hisham Suleiman, Nora El Koussour and Maisa Abd Elhadi round out the cast

October 2003 and Baghdad has been occupied by American forces for six months; but the disbandment of the Iraqi army, the police and civil leadership in the aftermath of the invasion means there is no one in charge and no effective rule of law.

In the midst of this chaos, crime and paranoia, Iraqi ex-policeman Muhsin al-Khafaji (Waleed Zuaiter; Omar, Altered Carbon) has lost everything and is battling daily to keep himself and his sick daughter, Mrouj (July Namir ; Homeland, Collateral), safe. But when he learns that his estranged elder daughter Sawsan (Leem Lubany; Omar, Condor) is missing Khafaji is forced into a desperate search to find her. He soon finds himself up against her enigmatic university tutor, Professor Zubeida Rashid (Clara Khoury, Homeland) and discovers that Sawsan and her two close friends Sanaa (Nora El Koussour; Layla M) and Zahra ( Maisa Abd Elhadi; Tel Aviv on Fire, The State) have been leading a hidden life that’s led them into great danger.

Khafaji feels powerless until he meets Frank Temple, an ex Police Officer played by double Olivier Award-winner Bertie Carvel (Dr Foster, Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell) who has arrived from Britain on a mission to rebuild the Iraqi Police Force from the ground up.

Temple recruits ex-cop Khafaji to give his operation some much-needed local credibility. But unbeknown to both Temple and his nemesis, upstanding American Military Police Captain John Parodi, played by Golden Globe-nominated Corey Stoll (House of Cards, First Man), Khafaji is compelled by his own, secret reasons to risk everything by collaborating with the occupying forces. Meanwhile a new threat represented by security op Douglas Evans (Neil Maskell; Humans, Utopia) provides a terrifying and sinister counterforce to his efforts.

Khafaji quickly discovers that Sawsan’s disappearance is linked to the murder of an American employee and so entwines himself in that investigation to uncover the truth about what has happened to his daughter and her friends. But, as the addictive, thrilling world of Baghdad Central unfolds, he soon finds himself embarking on a wider quest for justice in a society that’s become truly lawless.

Baghdad Central (6×60) was commissioned for Channel 4 by Beth Willis, Head of Drama with Commissioning Editor Manpreet Dosanjh and Commissioning Executive Jonny Richards. The series is produced by Euston Films (part of FremantleMedia UK).

Executive Producers Kate Harwood, Stephen Butchard and Alice Troughton.

Producer is Jonathan Curling (The Secret). FremantleMedia International will act as the global distributor for the series.

Alice Troughton (Doctor Who, Tin Star, A Discovery of Witches) is lead director and BAFTA-nominated Ben A. Williams (Humans, The Pass) will direct the second block of filming.

“LUTHER” CREATOR NEIL CROSS SIGNS OVERALL DEAL WITH FREMANTLEMEDIA

19 December 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Luther creator Neil Cross has struck an exclusive overall deal with FremantleMedia. I hear that Cross, who has just finished the first season of BBC One and Hulu “pre-apocalyptic” crime drama Hard Sun with FremantleMedia-owned Euston Films, will be focused on producing series for U.S. and UK broadcasters.

The multi-year deal will see Cross work with Euston Films, established by former BBC drama exec Kate Harwood, and FremantleMedia North America, overseen by scripted chief Dante Di Loreto. FremantleMedia International will distribute Cross-penned titles to the global market.
It is the latest high-profile drama deal signed by the RTL-owned producer and distributor following a deal with American Gods creator Neil Gaiman (I understand it was signed before the Starz series lost showrunners Michael Green and Bryan Fuller).

Cross’ Hard Sun is set to launch in the new year. The series stars Agyness Deyn as Detective Inspector Elaine Renko and Jim Sturgess Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Hicks. The show follows the pair as they investigate the death of a hacker in London before stumbling on proof that the world is ending in five years. He told Deadline that the deal came off the back of the big-budget series. “FremantleMedia trusted me to go ahead and make this strange thing,” he said.
Cross previously created NBC’s John Malkovich-fronted drama Crossbones and had a two-year deal with Universal Pictures from 2012.

Euston Films Managing Director Harwood called Cross “one of the greatest storytellers in the industry” and was looking forward to creating more “distinctive” dramas. “He has an extraordinary ability in creating engaging and ambitious ideas with complex characters that audiences around the world have come to love.”
Di Loreto, President of Scripted Entertainment at FMNA, told Deadline that Cross was “one of the most articulate and passionate creators I’ve met.”

“It’s incredibly challenging to make a TV show and if you do it right it can be a long relationship so you want to make sure you’re doing it with someone who is passionate. You want to be selective about those people you’re choosing to work with and lead them get on with their creative vision,” he said.
Di Loreto said that the pair were already working on a couple of shows that it expects to reveal in early 2018. “Some projects are original works and some are adaptations but they all feature complex characters,” he added.
The former Chernin Entertainment President of Television, who worked on series including Glee and American Horror Story, also opened up about FMNA’s drama drive. He added that it is adapting more Gaiman-penned works for the U.S. markets, while the English author and comic book writer is also understood to be adapting other people’s works for the small screen.

 

FREMANTLEMEDIA TO ADAPT ROBERT HARRIS’ BEST-SELLING THRILLER, MUNICH

4 October 2017

Continuing to grow its global high-end drama offering, FremantleMedia has struck a deal with the best-selling author, Robert Harris, to produce the TV adaptation of his latest novel, Munich. The international co-production between FremantleMedia’s Euston Films and UFA Fiction will be shot in the UK and Germany.

A breathtaking spy-thriller from the unsurpassable Robert Harris, Munich is about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, filled with real-life characters – Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier – and events that changed history.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own. Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again. When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Released by Hutchinson, an imprint of Penguin Random House, on 21st September, 2017 and sold in 20 languages so far, Munich debuted in the original fiction book sales chart at no. 2 after the first week of sales and received considerable praise from the critics, with the Guardian calling Munich ‘a tantalising addition to the inexhaustible game of “what if?’ and the Daily Telegraph hailing it as ‘a superb, compelling novel.’

Robert Harris said: “From my point of view, this is the perfect combination — an Anglo-German co-production of a story set in England and Germany, telling the story of an Englishman and a German struggling against the Nazis. From the moment I heard that Euston Films and UFA wanted to make it together, I knew my novel could not be in better hands.”

Kate Harwood, Managing Director, Euston Films added:  “As a long-time fan of Robert Harris’s epic and dramatic novels I am so proud that we have been entrusted with the rights to this superb book. I think Munich, with its thrilling yet forensic look at four days when the world held its breath, is destined to be a future classic. With our partners and sister company UFA, we are planning an international co-production of scale and ambition as a dual language drama which will shoot in the UK and Germany. A really exciting venture for us all.”

Nico Hofmann, CEO, UFA said: “Robert Harris is revered in Germany, and rightly so. No author in recent years is better than Robert at portraying German history as world history and attaining unprecedented levels of quality, suspense and drama in the process. Munich is an outstanding example of the kind of German-British coproduction that only Fremantle can deliver. I am confident that it will set new standards in narrative television and prove a fantastic production opportunity for both UFA and Euston Films.”

Robert Harris is the author of eleven bestselling novels: the Cicero Trilogy – Imperium, Lustrum and DictatorFatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, The Ghost, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy, which won four prizes including the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and Conclave. Several of his books have been filmed, including The Ghost, which was directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages and he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Munich is the latest title to join FremantleMedia’s roster of large scale, high-end drama series. In recent weeks, the global production and distribution powerhouse has secured a commission from BBC One for Euston Film’s The Dublin Murders which is drawn from Tana French’s first two novels In the Woods and the Likeness, and a six-episode series order from HISTORY for The Breach: Inside the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, based on the New York Times bestselling book from Peter Baker.

Published by Penguin Random House, the partnership for Munich marks the first deal between the Bertelsmann-owned publishers and FremantleMedia, itself part of the RTL Group, a division of Bertelsmann.

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