EXCLUSIVE: Paul Giamatti and FX are in the early stages of a limited series on the spark that started the fire of the Civil War. I’ve learned that Untitled John Brown Project, as it is currently being called, traces the true story of the abolitionist’s transformation from a lowly 50-year old farmer to a notorious anti-slavery freedom fighter in Kansas and his famed 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry. The project is based on Tony Horwitz’s 2011 book Midnight Rising which examines Brown’s attack on the Virginia arsenal. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the raid, which started as an attempt to launch an armed revolt against the forces of slavery in a politically fraught America, is widely acknowledged as being an emotional tipping point toward the South’s secession the following year. Defeated by Marines led by a certain Col. Robert E. Lee, Brown was convicted and killed by hanging for his part in the raid. Horwitz is a consultant on the project which is expected to be 6 to 8 hours in total.
The project comes out of the two-year first-look deal Giamatti and partner Daniel Carey’s Touchy Feely Films inked with FX Productions last September. The duo already are working with the cable network on the Puritan settler-based Mayflower, as FX announced at their upfront presentation in March. Similar to Mayflower, Giamatti and Carey will serve as executive producers on the John Brown limited series that FX Productions will produce. Kippster Entertainment’s Perri Kipperman and David Stern also will executive produce. Gabriel Range, who helmed the faux documentary Death Of A President in 2006, is adapting Horwitz’s book into a screenplay. Range will also serves as Co-EP on the project. As they announced earlier this year, FX is going heavy into the limited series game with a Coen brothers-produced adaption of the the duo’s 1996 film Fargo as well as Sam Mendes’ terrorist-themed Grand Hotel among others. FX Productions is also producing the event series Wayward Pines from M. Night Shyamalan and starring Matt Dillon and Carla Gugino for broadcast on Fox.