EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Sand, who wrote the original screenplay for Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon, which stars Mark Wahlberg and has its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next Tuesday, is writing a mini-series for the BBC entitled Lionhearts about the Third Crusade of Richard the Lionheart and the battle for Jerusalem. Pierre Morell (Taken) is attached to direct.
Moving from Deepwater Horizon, a film about the heroism during one of the worst ecological disasters in world history when the BP Oil platform exploded and killed 11 workers and caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf to Lionshearts felt “incredibly different but much the same,” said Sand in an interview with Deadline. The same because he is still writing about heroes. He called Richard the First (the Lionheart) “one of the greatest military leaders there has ever been” and a leader who knew when to stop. Lionheart said: “As we are, we cannot take this city” as they failed to win away the Holy Land from Saladin. That singular statement of defeat put into motion the modern day structure in the Middle East.
Sand also has a profound sense that as he writes he has an obligation to get it right as he is capturing a moment of time in our history. For Deepwater Horizon, Sand said: “I knew I had a an enormous responsibility writing about those who were killed whose relatives were still alive. We really had to get it right to honor them and their families.” During the shooting of Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg sat next to 11 empty chairs with the names of those whose lives were lost on April 20, 2010. He gave credit to Berg for being able to get to the heart and emotion of the story and very quickly. “I had such a feeling of pride and a very strong senses of humility watching Berg and the cast who made it better than what I wrote,” he said.
Sand wrote the original screenplay which sold to Lionsgate and Participant and then writer Matthew Michael Carnahan came aboard, who Sand also gave props to. The film will come out Sept. 30th from Summit/Participant.
For Lionhearts, Sand has spent endless hours researching the subject matter. The mini-series will be in two seasons with 8 episodes each and covers the time between the fall of Jerusalem and Richard the Lionheart leaving the Holy Land in 1192. “The Crusades are the foundation upon which today’s Middle East was built,” said Sand. “There was a European country in the Middle East — Outre Mer — for more than 200 years that was forgotten. But Lionhearts is really the story of two reigning families, Richard’s and Saladin’s.”
“When I was writing Deepwater Horizon, I could not find a list of the 11 men who were killed, and that’s not right. It shouldn’t have been that way,” he said. “I believe I need to write about heroes to give them the attention they deserve and I feel like that’s the most heroic I can do because then I feel like I’m doing something worthy with my talent and effort.” Deepwater Horizon ends with a montage of the men with their families “and that was Pete Berg,” said Sand. “I had a hand in getting them recognized and when you can do that for any hero in any time period for me that is a good day’s work.”