samantha mortonEXCLUSIVE: After their collaboration on cross-Channel, bilingual series The Tunnel, the UK’s Sky Atlantic and France’s Canal Plus are reteaming for another international crime drama, The Last Panthers. The six-part hourlong thriller will star Samantha Morton, John Hurt and Tahar Rahim. It’s based on the notorious Pink Panthers, a group of Balkan jewel thieves that has pulled off spectacular heists worldwide and has been suspected of the July 2013 theft of $136M worth of baubles from the Carlton Hotel in Cannes. Developed and co-produced by Haut et Court TV (The Returned) and Warp Films (’71, This is England), The Last Panthers originated as an idea from French journalist Jerome Pierrat. The screenplay is by Bafta winning writer Jack Thorne (Skins, This Is England).

tahar rahimThe series opens with a daring diamond heist before quickly delving into the dark heart of Europe where a shadowy alliance of gangsters and ‘banksters’ now rules. Morton stars as Naomi, a British loss adjustor charged with recovering the stolen diamonds whatever the cost. Hurt plays Tom, her nefarious boss. Also in pursuit of the thieves is a French-Algerian policeman Khalil, played by Rahim (The Past, A Prophet).

Johan Renck (Downloading Nancy, Breaking Bad) will direct the series. Producers are Peter Carlton for Warp Films and Caroline Benjo and Jimmy Desmarais for Haut john hurtet Court TV which is ramping up its TV activity after the international phenomenon of The Returned. Shooting starts on October 27 in London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro in three languages: English, French and Serbian. Broadcast is eyed for 2015 on Sky Atlantic in the UK, Ireland and Germany, and on Canal Plus in France.

Fabrice De La Patellière, Director of French Drama and co-productions for Canal Plus says the series promises to plung the audience into “a Europe gripped by new forms of crime and featuring the interplay between traffickers, European officials, war criminals and City bankers.”

Benjo and Carlton call the show “a truly contemporary, world class series that is smart and multi-layered. The Last Panthers is a big, bold operatic series that tells a story about Europe today, about old alliances and terrifying freedoms, through the lives of our characters who move within it. Our shared histories and moral choices impact on every one of us in ways we cannot foresee.”

Sky is on a drive to continue to invest in original programming and Director of Sky Atlantic Zai Bennett, says, “The Last Panthers is the perfect series to add to Sky Atlantic’s exciting drama slate. It has all the ingredients to ensure our customers will love it and it will flourish on the channel – on and off screen world-class talent combined with a gripping and thought provoking story.”

Worldwide distribution is being shared by Studiocanal’s Tandem and BSkyB’s Sky Vision.