I have learned that the two companies are working on a high-end scripted adaptation of Amanda Foreman’s book Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, which was previously the basis for Keira Knightley film The Duchess. It’s rare that two high-profile UK producers would team for such a project but the arrangement brings together former BBC colleagues Christine Langan, the ex-BBC Films boss who now runs Baby Cow, and Bad Wolf’s Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, who previously ran drama at the public broadcaster.
I hear that the project also reunites the producers with former BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow, who is writing the series. Hadlow, who left the corporation in 2016 after nearly 30 years, recently struck a development deal with Bad Wolf and Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire marks her first script commission.
Langan, Tranter and Gardner will exec produce alongside Gabrielle Tana, who produced the Saul Dibb-directed movie version in 2008 and has worked with Baby Cow on films including Philomena.
The ITV remake is described as a “big-budget costume drama” and ITV will hope that it can replicate the success of Mammoth Screen’s Victoria as it continues to look for shows that can fill the gap left by Carnival Films’ Downton Abbey, which ended in 2015.
It will explore the late-eighteenth-century British aristocracy and follow Lady Georgiana Spencer, who was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales. Spencer married the Duke of Devonshire, one of England’s richest and most influential aristocrats and became the queen of fashionable society.
The book explores her uneasy relationship with her husband, who was thought to be having an affair with her best friend, who she was also on intimate terms with. The three lived together for over 20 years in a ménage à trois, during which time both women bore the Duke’s children, as well as those of other men.
It will also cover Georgiana’s uncontrollable gambling, her drink and drug fuelled days and affairs with the leading politicians of the day during the era of the madness of King George III, the American and French revolutions, and the defeat of Napoleon.
Elsewhere, Hadlow is thought to be working with Bad Wolf, which is also backed by Len Blavatnik-owned, Danny Cohen-run Access Entertainment, on a number of other historical projects including an update of I, Claudius, which was set in ancient Rome and featured the assassinations of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and Caligula in 41 AD. The BBC previously adapted it in 1976, starring John Hurt and Patrick Stewart, and in 2011 HBO announced that it was developing a remake, although no series materialised.
Bad Wolf, which is currently in production with a remake of Deborah Harkness’ fantasy novel A Discovery Of Witches for Sky and is also working with Jack Thorne on an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for BBC1, has also secured its latest U.S commission. It is working with HBO on banking drama Industry. The series, which is set within a U.S bank in London’s financial district, is being written by new British writers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay.