Since forming a first look deal with the Fox Networks Group last week, producer Scott Rudin has quickly set up three plum projects that will be developed as potential series. He just preempted rights to the Adam Higginbotham book The Invisible Enemy: The Untold Story Of The Battle Of Chernobyl, which Rudin acquired in proposal form just as the book was selling to Simon & Schuster in a heated bidding war that ended with a near-seven figure deal. It will be developed as a limited series for the Fox-owned Nat Geo, which is aiming to get into ambitious original scripted fare. The deal comes just as Rudin opens his offices on the Fox lot this week, led by producer Garrett Basch.
The other two projects will be developed as potential series for FX. SRP acquired Southern Bastards, a Southern fried crime drama based on a graphic novel about a power struggle between the son of a former sheriff of Craw County, Alabama who returns to a hometown controlled by a local criminal and revered head coach of the powerhouse high school football team. FX has scored with crime stories like Justified and Sons Of Anarchy, and this has similar scope. Jason Aaron & Jason Latour, who wrote it, will be exec producers and they will adapt it. SRP is also in negotiations to set at FX City On Fire, a sprawling 900-plus page novel by Garth Risk Hallberg that Rudin acquired in 2013 with his own money, before the book sold for $2 million in a publishing deal with Knopf. It is set in New York in the 1970s and will be a major title published in the fall. The Southern Bastards deal was negotiated by Harris Miller and Angela Cheng-Caplan.
Rudin is known in the literary community for being a book loving producer who is decisive and aggressive enough that he often closes deals before rivals know what hit them. His relationship with pedigree authors has led him to make deals based on a few pages of description. He brings all that to the Fox deal, as evidenced by the speed in which he closed The Inside Enemy before the nuclear meltdown tale got a chance to be a hot property.
The Chernobyl disaster chronicle is describes an in-depth moment by moment account of the disaster and the horrible aftermath. This includes the Kremlin’s initial denial, the dogged reporting by journalists like Dan Rather, and the catastrophic economic cost to the Soviet Union that contributed to its insolvency. The meltdown is covered as the events unfolded, from the workers inside the reactor who tried in vain to close off containers by turning valves by hand, to the reaction of engineers and workers in nearby Priyap; down to the discovery of particles that set off radiation readings at a nuclear facility in Sweden that days later prompted the USSR to finally admit to the the accident. CAA brokered the publishing and TV deal for the author.
Rudin has always run his operation from New York, with Eli Bush heading SRP’s Gotham office. The new guy running the West Coast outpost at Fox is Basch, who co-founded Film Rites with Oscar winning Schindler’s List scribe Steve Zaillian and worked with the writer for years on film and TV projects that included the Rudin-produced The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Moneyball. Film Rites has its own first look deal on the feature side at Fox and Basch will continue to produce projects he percolated with Zaillian that include Cascade, which has Baltasar Kormakur directing and Cate Blanchett attached, and the spy thriller Red Sparrow. Rudin and Basch will also continue to collaborate with Zaillian on projects. Basch also was exec producer on Crime, the upcoming Zaillian-created HBO series that Zaillian co-wrote by Richard Price. This was the project whose pilot episode originally starred James Gandolfini before his untimely death. Zaillian directed seven of the eight episodes (The Walk helmer James Marsh did the other), and John Turturro replaced Gandolfini in the lead role. Basch separately produced Life Itself, the Steve James-directed documentary on Roger Ebert, winning the Producers Guild, Critics Choice and National Board of Review Awards last year.
As Deadline reported last week, Fox Networks Group head Peter Rice will rely on SRP to generate prestige programming for FBC, FX and Nat Geo.