FX is bringing back Shōgun to the small screen. In what the network describes as In its largest international scale production to date, it has given a 10-episode order to a limited series period drama based on James Clavell’s best-selling novel. The book previously spawned a miniseries on NBC, which aired over five nights in 1980, starring Richard Chamberlain, Toshiro Mifune and Yoko Shimada, earning multiple Emmys, Golden Globes and a Peabody award.
The FX series has had a blinking green light for more than seven months as the network worked on figuring out logistics for the ambitious project.
“The story of Shōgun has captivated audiences since James Clavell first released his epic novel more than 40 years ago,” said John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions. “The themes of an outsider encountering a new culture are as relevant today as then. We are honored to bring the series to today’s viewers through our partnership with executive producers Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Michael De Luca, Clavell’s daughter Michaela, and Eugene Kelly. We are equally thrilled that Ronan Bennett and Rachel Bennette are writing the new adaption, and that Tim Van Patten will bring his vision and expertise to directing this saga of adventure, power and loyalty that the world has come to know as Shōgun.”
Set in feudal Japan, Shōgun charts the collision of two ambitious men from different worlds and a mysterious female samurai: John Blackthorne, a risk-taking English sailor who ends up shipwrecked in Japan, a land whose unfamiliar culture will ultimately redefine him; Lord Toranaga, a shrewd, powerful daimyo, at odds with his own dangerous, political rivals; and Lady Mariko, a woman with invaluable skills but dishonorable family ties, who must prove her value and allegiance.
During FX’s TCA, Landgraf talked about how the new version will be different from the 1980s one, which was done largely through the eyes of a Westerner, played by Chamberlain. “I agree that if you sort of just exoticize and fetishize Japanese culture through the Western eyes and male gaze, it would probably not fly. But I think there is an exciting opportunity to tell the collision of two cultures from both perspectives in a way that wasn’t done before.”
“(The FX version) is told from multiple points of view, not just the singular Western white male point of view, it’s told through many Japanese points of view, and there is a lot of fun and fascinating work going on to try to balance the story out and tell it from both points of view.”
Shōgun, the novel, was published in 1975 and became a major best-seller with more than 30 million copies sold worldwide. It sparked great Western interest in Japanese culture. Building on the earlier success of Roots, Shōgun helped establish the miniseries as an ambitious new TV genre. It also became a big global hit, drawing strong audiences around the world.
Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich of DNA TV (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting), Michael De Luca (Moneyball, The Social Network), and Michaela Clavell will serve as Executive Producers along with Tim Van Patten (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Pacific), who will direct multiple episodes of the series, Eugene Kelly (Westworld, Leftovers, Boardwalk Empire), and Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, Top Boy), who will write the series. Rachel Bennette (NW, Bel Ami) is also onboard as Supervising Producer. Tom Winchester from DNA TV will serve as a producer on the series. Georgina Pope (Mr. Holmes, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter) will serve as Co-Producer and Eriko Miyagawa (Silence) as Associate Producer. Shōgun will be shot in the UK and Japan and produced by FX Productions.
De Luca is represented by CAA and Tara Kohl; Clavell is represented by CAA and Jay Kramer; Bennett is represented by CAA and Charles Collier; and Van Patten and Kelly are represented by CAA.