Sky has announced a raft of high end original drama productions starring Helen Mirren, Sean Bean and Dennis Quaid.
Helen Mirren is to play the lead role in a Sky and HBO co pro, Catherine the Great; Sean Bean, Adrian Lester and Phoebe Fox star in street race drama Curfew and Dennis Quaid, Richard Dormer and Sienna Guillory appear in a third and final series of thriller Fortitude.
Catherine the Great is a four-part drama that delves into the politically tumultuous and sexually charged court of the most powerful female monarch in history who wielded supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half of the 18th century.
The mini-series, set to start filming later this year, will follow Catherine towards the end of her reign and her passionate affair with Grigory Potemkin.
Catherine the Great, produced by Origin Pictures and New Pictures, will air on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV in the UK and Ireland next year, and on Sky Atlantic in Italy, Germany, Austria and Sky’s recently launched service in Spain. The miniseries will air on HBO in the US and HBO Canada in Canada, through HBO’s output deal with Bell Media.
Helen Mirren said: “I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power. She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word Great attached to her name, Catherine the Great. I am very grateful to have HBO and Sky as partners in this endeavour. There are no other homes on television that bring the support and understanding needed for this kind of project.”
Cameron Roach, commissioning editor for Sky drama, said: “We’re incredibly excited to announce Catherine the Great and our further association with HBO, in what promises to be a definitive landmark drama. The team assembled on the project is truly world class and we look forward to Helen Mirren bringing this remarkable woman to life.”
Kary Antholis, president, HBO miniseries and CINEMAX programming, said: “We are jubilant about having Helen Mirren back on HBO, playing the iconic Russian empress and joining this distinguished team of British filmmakers. This collaboration will, no doubt, result in a truly regal mini-series.”
Written by Nigel Williams (Elizabeth I, Wodehouse in Exile) and directed by BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Philip Martin (The Crown, Mo, Prime Suspect), Catherine the Great will be executive produced by David M. Thompson (Woman in Gold, Death Comes to Pemberley) for Origin Pictures and Charlie Pattinson (Elizabeth I, The Missing, Skins) for New Pictures, Helen Mirren and Philip Martin. Jules Hussey (Hooten and the Lady) is producing.
It is commissioned by Sky’s director of programmes Zai Bennett, Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah and commissioning editor for Sky drama, Cameron Roach. Sky Vision will handle distribution rights.
David M. Thompson, executive producer for Origin Pictures, said: “Helen Mirren came to me with the idea for Catherine the Great when we were working with her on Woman in Gold, saying it’s a part she’s always wanted to play. I’m delighted we’re now making the series and indeed we can’t think of anyone better for the role. We’re thrilled with the scripts from Nigel Williams and the drama couldn’t have found a more perfect home than Sky/HBO. We’re really pleased to be collaborating with New Pictures on the show, and look forward to bringing it to fruition.”
Charlie Pattinson, executive producer for New Pictures, said: “We are delighted to be working with Helen Mirren and Nigel Williams again after our previous collaboration on Elizabeth I. Nigel has already brought Catherine the Great and her extraordinary love story with Grigory Potemkin to life on the page and we couldn’t have better partners than Sky Atlantic and HBO and director Philip Martin. Catherine was one of the most powerful and extraordinary women in history. She deserves to be portrayed by an actress as fiercely intelligent and instinctive as Helen Mirren.”
Catherine the Great is the third Sky and HBO project to be greenlit through an international partnership to develop big-scale drama, under a $250m multi-year co-production investment deal announced last year. The first commission from the global partnership was Chernobyl, a dramatisation of the true story of one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, starring Jared Harris (The Crown, Mad Men), with the second titled Gangs of London (w/t), a fresh and original gangland thriller set to take viewers on an adrenaline-fuelled journey into the hidden heart of the capital. Both shows will be coming exclusively to Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK & Ireland.
Also announced is new “street race” drama Curfew, with a cast including Sean Bean (Broken, Game of Thrones), Adrian Lester (Riviera, Hustle), Phoebe Fox (Blue Iguana, Intrigo: Samaria), and Malachi Kirby (Black Mirror, Roots) “going head to head in the ultimate contest.”
The eight-part Sky Original Production, from Tiger Aspect Productions in association with Moonage Pictures, will be available exclusively on Sky One and TV streaming service NOW TV next year and follows the story of ordinary people competing in the world’s fastest, most furious, illegal night-time street race.
The challengers risk everything as they race through the night from London to northernmost Scotland in their weaponised vehicles to win the ultimate prize — freedom from the totalitarian government curfew that controls their lives.
The cast of Curfew also includes Robert Glenister (Hustle, Spooks), Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Troy: Fall of a City, Peaky Blinders), Rose Williams (Reign, A Quiet Passion), Elijah Rowen (Vikings) and Guz Khan (Man Like Mobeen, Borderline). Further cast to be announced soon.
Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah said: “When Sky does dramas about car races, we do them like no other broadcaster. Funny, emotionally truthful, visceral and above all fast – Curfew is the perfect Sky One show. Matthew Read has created fantastically memorable, sometimes shocking, always fascinating characters. You’ll want every single one of them to win the race of their lives.”
Matthew Read, executive producer and writer, said: “Sky have been incredibly supportive throughout the development of such a bold and ambitious show and I couldn’t be more pleased by the creative team that has been assembled to deliver a story that we have filled with as much excitement, emotion and dynamism as possible.”
Curfew is written and executive produced by Matthew Read (Pusher, Hammer of the Gods). The series is executive produced for Tiger Aspect Productions by Will Gould and Frith Tiplady in association with their new independent production company, Moonage Pictures, and directed by Colm McCarthy (The Girl With All The Gifts, Peaky Blinders). Curfew is commissioned for Sky by Anne Mensah, director of Sky One Adam MacDonald and director of programming for Sky Entertainment UK & Ireland Zai Bennett. Sky Vision will handle distribution rights.
Sky Original Production Fortitude will also return later this year for a third and final series.
It will be back on Sky Atlantic and available on TV streaming service NOW TV in the UK & Ireland, as well as on Sky Atlantic in Italy, Germany and Austria.
A four-part mini-series, the third trip to Fortitude will feature returning key cast including Dennis Quaid (Far from Heaven), Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones), Sienna Guillory (Stan Lee’s Lucky Man), Luke Treadaway (A Street Cat Named Bob), Alexandra Moen (Strike Back), Mia Jexen (Happiness) and Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson (Jar City), as well as some new faces to be announced at a later date.
This series picks up where the second finished with the death of Governor Munk hanging over the town. Two new police officers are in town from Oslo, sent to Fortitude to investigate the murder, and soon learn the inhabitants of the most staggeringly beautiful place on earth have a lot to overcome…
Star of Fortitude Richard Dormer said: “I can’t wait to get back to this place. I love this world. A brilliant cast and crew. Returning to Fortitude always feels like coming home. And my old friend Dan is waiting for me. And he’s just got this big grin on his face.”
Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah said: “We know fans of Fortitude all over the world really love this show and we can’t wait to welcome it back. Simon Donald’s created this four-hour special event, which is the perfect ending to the most enigmatic, surprising, shocking and emotional series we’ve ever had on Sky Atlantic.”
Series creator Simon Donald said: “"Fortitude has gripped my imagination like an icy blast to the heart. It’s wonderful to be back for a last dance under the blizzard stars in the cold, dark night and find out who lives, who dies and who goes completely, barking arctic crazy…"
Fortitude is written by Simon Donald (Low Winter Sun) and executive producers for Fifty Fathoms are Patrick Spence (The A Word, Guerrilla), Simon Donald, Dennis Quaid (The Art of More). Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah is executive producer for Sky. The third series will be produced by Andrew Wood (Will), directed by Kieron Hawkes (Strike) with production design by Paul Spriggs (The A Word).
Fortitude is commissioned for Sky by head of drama Anne Mensah and Sky’s director of programmes Zai Bennett. Sky Vision will handle distribution rights. Fortitude will be filmed at Bristol production base The Bottle Yard Studios and on location in Svalbard, where Simon Donald found his original inspiration for the series.
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