EXCLUSIVE: Former Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam is returning to television as the lead of Apple’s sweeping international drama Shantaram, which has been greenlighted to series by the streamer, I have learned.
Apple landed the project, based on Gregory David Roberts’ best-selling novel, more than a year ago in a competitive situation to develop for straight-to-series consideration.
Shantaram hails from Anonymous Content and Paramount Television, which in early 2018 won a monthlong bidding war for the rights to Roberts’ 2004 novel set in Australia and India that explores love, forgiveness, courage and redemption, as well as for Robert’s sequel novel, The Mountain Shadow.
Written by Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle), Shantaram tells the story of Lin (Hunnam), a man on the run from an Australian prison looking to get lost in the teeming city of Bombay. Cut off from family and friends by distance and fate, he finds a new life in the slums, bars and underworld of India.
Justin Kurzel (Assassin’s Creed) is set to direct the first two episodes of the 10-episode series.
Singer and Kurzel executive produce with former Fear the Walking Dead showrunner Dave Erickson, Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin, as well as Nicole Clemens, Andrea Barron and Richard Sharkey. Clemens originally was an executive producer on behalf of Anonymous alongside Golin and played a key role in putting the project together and setting it up at Apple. Last fall, she was named President of Paramount Television and has continued to work on Shantaram, which is co-production between Anonymous and Paramount TV.
The series is expected to start production in Australia and India in October with a $5 million tax incentive from the Australian government.
The book, published in 39 languages in 42 territories worldwide with 6 million copies sold, had long been pursued for screen adaptations. There had been various feature attempts since 2004 when Warner Bros. paid $2 million for the book rights with Johnny Depp’s Inifinitum Nihil and GK Films producing. Depp originally intended to play the lead before the film was derailed by the writers strike. In 2013, Depp brought in Joel Edgerton to star, but the movie never got off the ground.
British actor Hunnam, who became a household name with his lead role as Jackson “Jax” Teller on FX’s hugely popular drama Sons of Anarchy, has starred in such features as Pacific Rim, Triple Frontier and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He was in Toronto last week for the premiere of his latest movie, Jungleland, directed by Max Winkler.
Hunnam is repped by CAA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and Sloane Offer.