EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios has greenlighted Cortes, a four-hour miniseries based on the epic saga of Hernan Cortes starring Oscar winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) in the title role. The series, from three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg and Amblin Television, is created for television and written by Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Schindler’s List writer Steven Zaillian based on a 50-year old script by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday).
Cortes reveals the legendary conqueror, Hernan Cortes (Bardem), who led a rebellious expedition to the heart of King Montezuma II’s Aztec empire, connecting two civilizations for the first time and changing the course of history.
Amblin TV’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey (The Americans) executive produce with Bardem.
“Cortes’ epic discoveries shaped the world as we know it today, and through the minds of Amblin, Steven Spielberg, Steve Zaillian and Javier Bardem, we will bring Prime Video members on an exhilarating journey,” said Sharon Yguado, Head of Scripted Series, Amazon Studios. “There are few moments in history that shape an entire culture such as Cortes’ story, and this series will be one filled with drama and adventure.”
The project originated in 2014 as a feature, with Spielberg eying it as a possible directing vehicle. It eventually morphed into a four-hour miniseries through the TV division of his company, Amblin Television, so it can do justice to the scope of the epic story. Cortes als0 falls into Amazon’s strategy of focusing on ambitious, large-scale series with international appeal.
“We are so pleased that Amazon has given us the opportunity to bring this exciting 500 -year old story to Prime Video members worldwide. It is a part of history that had such a significant impact and largely influenced modern day civilizations. With Javier as Cortes, we have the perfect star for this role, and we can’t wait to get started,” said Frank and Falvey, co-heads of Amblin Television.
Cortés’ legacy is a complex one. On one hand, he won Mexico for Spain and extended the Spanish Empire. But from the indigenous’ point of view, he was a mass murderer who spearheaded the destruction of one of the greatest civilizations of that time.
“It is a privilege to tell this epic story— one that is full of drama and conflict within this huge, historical spectacle where two distant civilizations clash at the height of their reign,” said Bardem. “The best and worst of human nature came to life in all its light and darkness. As an actor, there is no better challenge than to serve such a unique project that I have been passionate about for years, and I am thrilled to be working with this dream team of Steven Spielberg, Steven Zaillian and Amazon.”
Several years ago, HBO developed Cortes, a drama series written/executive produced by Mississippi Burning scribe Chris Gerolmo, directed/executive produced by Martin Scorsese and executive produced by Benicio Del Toro who was interested in starring as the Aztec conqueror. At one point, there was talk about the project moving to Starz.
Cortes joins Amblin Television’s series portfolio, which includes Bull for CBS, The Americans for FX and the upcoming Reverie for NBC, The Haunting of Hill House for Netflix, the Rev Run and Justine Simmons family sitcom for Netflix, Amazing Stories for Apple, Animaniacs for Hulu, Days that Shaped America for The History Channel, and Cooper’s Treasure for Discovery.