Big Dead Place, a passion project of the late James Gandolfini, is inching closer to fruition. The drama, originally set up at HBO by Gandolfini in 2011 as a potential starring vehicle for him, remains in development but has started to heat up.

big-dead-placeThe project, inspired by Nicholas Johnson’s memoir about his stint working for the U.S. Antarctic Program, Image (1) gandolfiniphoto_copy__130620014813.jpg for post 664412now has Boardwalk Empire director/executive producer Tim Van Patten attached as executive producer and director. Van Patten, who also was a main director on The Sopranos, helming some 20 episodes, will share executive producer credit with former Sopranos star Gandolfini who spearheaded development and exec produced the project until his sudden death in June 2013.

Big Dead Place is described as a 21st century survival tale that takes us into the strange and menacing world of Antarctica, where scientists, bureaucrats, and blue-collar grunts working at McMurdo Station fight for the existence of the last unconquered continent.