EXCLUSIVE: In their first collaboration, Maniac, The Alienist and True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga has teamed with Watchmen director Nicole Kassell to bring The Last Of The Mohicans to the small screen. A TV series based on the historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper is in development at Paramount Television, where Fukunaga has been under an overall deal. Anonymous Content and Fukunaga’s Parliament of Owls are producing.
Written by Fukunaga and Nicholas Osborne and directed by Kassell, The Last of the Mohicans series will be a retelling of Cooper’s French and Indian War novel that re-centers the classic tale on the unlikely romance between Uncas, a young Mohican, and Cora, the mixed-race daughter of a British colonel.
“The clash of civilizations during the Seven Years War, which frames the story of Last of the Mohicans, has been a long-time passion of mine,” said Fukunaga. “It was a world war before the term even existed. The opportunity to recreate the story’s strong-willed and free-thinking characters, with talents including Nick Osborne and Nicole Kassell, is incredibly exciting to me. Together with Paramount TV and Anonymous Content, we have the chance to revive the forgotten ancestors that define American identity today.
Fukunaga, Osborne and Kassell executive produce with Anonymous Content’s Alex Goldstone (Dickinson) and Bard Dorros (True Detective) and Sugar23’s Michael Sugar (Maniac).
“I am profoundly excited to be a part of this extraordinary team and to be bringing a new light and perspective to this period in our history,” Kassell said. “While the James Fenimore Cooper book and original film leave large shoes to fill, Nick and Cary’s script is a riveting read and fresh take. They embrace this incredible opportunity to show and explore characters so often marginalized. To echo a sentiment Nick expressed to me in our first conversation ‘certain stories are timeless vessels that allow different generations to look at it and explore them in different ways.’ To be a part of bringing these eyes and hearts to the screen is the opportunity of a lifetime for me.”
The Last of the Mohicans has a long history of both TV and film adaptions. There have been nine film adaptations, beginning with a 1912 version starring James Cruze. A 1920 version starring Wallace Beery has been deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry. The most recent film adaptation was 1992’s The Last Of The Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis, which won an Oscar for best sound.
It was first adapted for TV in 1957 in Canadian series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans with John Hart as Hawkeye and Lon Chaney Jr. as Chingachgook. The BBC made a TV serial of the book in 1971, with Philip Madoc, Kenneth Ives, and John Abineri, which some have called the most faithful and best adaptation of the book. It was followed in 1977 with a TV movie starring Steve Forrest and Don Shanks. Steven J. Cannell produced American series Hawkeye, created by Kim LeMasters, which aired for one season in 1994-95. Most recently RAI made an animated TV series, Last of the Mohicans, which aired from 2004-2007.
Fukunaga, who won an Emmy for his directing work on the first season of HBO’s True Detective, co-created/executive produced Netflix’s Maniac, based on a Norwegian format, which starred Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, and executive produces TNT’s The Alienist, also based on a well known literary property. All three are produced by Anonymous, with Paramount TV the studio on Maniac and The Alienist.
Kassell directed episodes of Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers and Lindelof’s Watchmen pilot for HBO, as well as the pilot for TNT’s Claws. Her other episodic directing credits include Westworld, Vinyl The Americans, Better Call Saul and Rectify as well as finales for American Crime and the first season of Castle Rock.
Fukunaga, who currently is directing the 25th Bond film, is with WME and Sugar23. Kassell is repped by WME and Management 360. Osborne is repped by CAA and Anonymous Content.