Akin to the previews The Weinstein Company does of its Oscar-caliber movies during the Cannes Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein held a special buyers-only screening of 20 minutes of footage from upcoming miniseries War And Peace tonight at Mipcom. In attendance for the showing were BBC exec producers Faith Penhale, Bethan Jones and writer/exec producer Andrew Davies.
Stars Lily James, Tuppence Middleton and Stephen Rea were also there to revel in the first time they’d seen the footage of the epic drama that will air on the BBC in early 2016 and on which Lifetime, A&E Network and History have partnered for the six-part limited series adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic.
From all sides, this first collaboration between TWC and the BBC has been one to be repeated. “We’re in serious discussions,” Weinstein told me, about a deal on a new co-production with the BBC that would further their interactions.
The footage we saw this evening, while raw, demonstrated one of the most ambitious event series ever made for the BBC. The cast is led by Cinderella and Downton Abbey star James as the romantic and impulsive Natasha Rostova; and Paul Dano as the socially awkward but noble Pierre Bezukhov. Gillian Anderson, James Norton and Jim Broadbent co-star. Middleton also features greatly as Helene.
Tolstoy’s expansive novel begins in 1805 Russia and revolves around five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I, the lingering effects of his grandmother Catherine The Great’s rule and the events surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.
Of the TV adaptation, writer Davies (House Of Cards), who first read the tome on vacation a few years back, said he thinks his version is the “best work I’ve ever done.” Roundly, the cast and filmmakers feel there is a humaization in this version compared to Tolstoy’s classic.
Weinstein, who said A&E chief Nancy Dubuc “bought the show in the room and had complete faith in the project,” explained that this is a novel close to his heart. As a child undergoing repeated eye-surgery, he was left with few entertainment options until aproaching a librarian neighbor who handed him the book. “It was so beautiful. It captured the lonliness I was feeling and the exuberance,” Weinstein said. Ulitmately, this version is a “modern telling of War And Peace, yet it celebrates the period.”