EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company and ITV Studios have come on board to finance and distribute Liza Marshall and Kris Thykier’s Archery Pictures’ event TV series Mafiya. The 10-part series, written by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Miserables), is set to go into production early 2016. Set in 1990’s Moscow, when criminal gangs and private armies clashed in one of wildest rides in history, the series follows the rollercoaster rise of the oligarchs. Central character Misha goes from street trader to becoming one of the richest and most powerful individuals in the country, helping to bring down the once-mighty Soviet Union but paying a huge price along the way.

The project was developed in association with the BBC and Monumental Pictures. Archery Pictures, set up less than a year ago by well-respected UK-based producers Kris Thykier and Liza Marshall, is rapidly building an impressive slate of international film and TV projects. The company is developing and will produce the Cote d’Azur-based TV crime drama Riviera with Neil Jordan (The Borgias) set to write, direct and showrun. The project is the brainchild of Paul McGuinness, rock group U2’s longtime former manager, with John Banville (Albert Nobbs) co-writing. On the TV side, Marshall is also working with Peter Kosminsky, Gwyneth Hughes and Adrian Hodges. The former Scott Free UK head, previously head of drama at the UK’s Channel 4, is one of the UK’s most versatile and formidable producers.

Thykier has spent much of 2015 on set in Azerbaijan filming the epic love story Ali & Nino, starring Adam Bakri and Maria Valverde, with Asif Kapadia (Amy) directing the big-screen adaptation of Kurban Said’s best-selling Azerbaijan-set novel about two star-crossed lovers. Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) has written the script, with IM Global handling sales. It’s currently in post-production.

The television business is taking off for TWC, in reality (Mob Wives) and scripted fare (Marco PoloWar And Peace). The Weinstein Company also fully owns the long-running unscripted series Project Runway and its TV pipeline includes 10-part event series Ten Commandments at WGN America and Ancient Egypt-set drama Book Of The Dead. There’s also the matter of the strategic relationship with Netflix across both film (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2) and TV (Marco Polo, renewed for a second season).

“Bill has created a fascinating and thrilling window into the world of the Russian Oligarchy,” said Thykier and Marshall. “An epic drama that takes you from the fall of the Berlin Wall through to the election of Vladimir Putin. We are excited to bring his vision to life and could not be happier to be partnering with the combined might of The Weinstein Company and ITV Studios Global Entertainment.”

Mafiya is the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on — all the visceral thrills of film, plus the story and character complexity of a novel,” added Nicholson. “Though fiction, the framing of the series is historically deeply researched. These ten years witnessed every conceivable crime and every conceivable excess, and yet this was a time of dreams: dreams of democracy and freedom, dreams of making money and spending it.”

Mafiya is one of those projects that comes along so rarely that packages together a dream combination of creative elements, and it’s an honour for us at TWC to be part of it,” said the Weinstein Company’s Negeen Yazdi and Robert Walak.

“We are thrilled to be working with Archery and TWC to bring this fantastic story with global scale and ambition to international audiences,” said Ruth Clarke,  ITV Studios’ EVP of Global Content & co-productions.