EXCLUSIVE: See-Saw Films and writer Michael Lesslie, who worked together to resounding effect on Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, are re-teaming on an event TV series adaptation of Ray Celestin’s debut novel The Axeman’s Jazz. The book, which has been critically acclaimed, is based on the true story of a serial killer who terrorized New Orleans for more than a year after the First World War. Blending music, history and crime, Celestin’s 1919-set narrative follows three people — one aided and abetted by a young, cornet-playing Louis Armstrong — as they set out to unmask the serial killer.
This is likely to be a hot project for broadcasters given the caliber of both See-Saw and Lesslie, as well as the distinctive world of the book and proposed series. Macbeth opened strongly this weekend in the UK for StudioCanal, who did a great job marketing the visceral take on Shakespeare’s great doomed hero out to crossover audiences.
It also looks like fertile territory for Lesslie, who has become one of the UK’s most in-demand writers. He was brought on by Michael Fassbender to pen Assassin’s Creed, the Kurzel-directed New Regency live-action adaptation of the Ubisoft video game, which also stars Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson. New Regency and Ubisoft have high hopes for the project; the Assassin’s Creed video game has sold over 91 million units. Lesslie is also working again with Kurzel on Haven, a psychological chiller set in a mental facility although other plot details are being kept under wraps for now. That project has been in the works pre-Macbeth and is being produced by Element Pictures, who are enjoying a spectacular year off the back of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster and Lenny Abrahamson’s Room starring Brie Larsen, which won the much-coveted audience award at Toronto.
See-Saw Films, founded and led by Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, has grown into one of the UK’s most prolific and respected production houses. The company has successfully straddled the worlds of film and TV, moving between the award-winning The King’s Speech and Shame on the big screen and the likes of Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake and Steve McQueen’s much-anticipated TV series Codes Of Conduct, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Paul Dano.
Lesslie is repped by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates and WME.