Former Endeavor partner Adelstein and ex-Brillstein Entertainment EVP Clements launched the ITV-backed production company in 2014. Their take on Parasite director Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 feature film Snowpiercer was greenlit in 2016 and will finally launch on Sunday May 17.
For Adelstein and Clements, who have been partnered for a decade, Snowpiercer feels like the start of a new chapter for the company, which has several upcoming streaming series, Physical at Apple and Cowboy Bebop and One Piece at Netflix, and a number of high-profile projects in the works. The list includes a reboot of classic 1970s British drama The Persuaders, which will be written by Steve Coogan and Hart Hanson, and book adaptations of Frances Cha’s If I Had Your Face and Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society.
Snowpiercer, which stars Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, has faced its share of challenges, including showrunner changes and network moves, but Adelstein and Clements have remained steadfast.
“My theory in television is that the ones that are hardest to birth end up being the best ones, because you have to pour everything into them,” he tells Deadline. “The easy ones that you think are going to be hits never are.”
Adelstein (left) decided that Snowpiercer, which is set on a train after a major climate catastrophe, would make a great television series after watching the Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans-fronted film. He admits that it was tricky to option the rights, largely as The Weinstein Company had a right of refusal.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ Josh Friedman was originally tapped as showrunner, but left the series in January 2018, replaced by Orphan Black’s Graeme Manson. It was briefly switched to TBS before moving back to TNT.
“Graeme quickly highlighted the bits of the movie and graphic novel that were speaking to us, the bigger idea of climate change, class system and resource control,” Clements says. “We owe a ton of thanks to the cast for sticking with it.”
Director Bong, who is an exec producer, twice visited the set in Vancouver and gave his blessing to the project, the launch of which is quite timely given his recent surprise win for Best Picture at the Oscars for Parasite.
Last year, the show was renewed for a second season, although the sci-fi series was hit by the COVID-19 production shutdown with only nine days left of shooting. The team was able to finish up enough material so that they can finish eight episodes if they are not able to get back into production any time soon and Clements, who previously worked with Adelstein on shows such as Hanna and Last Man Standing, says that they have already started thinking about a third season.
Tomorrow Studios, which was behind NBC’s David Duchovny-fronted period crime drama Aquarius and TNT’s Michelle Dockery-fronted con thriller Good Behavior, has shifted its attention to streamers and premium cable networks over the past couple of years.
Physical was handed a series order by Apple; the series is headlined by Rose Byrne, who plays a quietly tortured housewife in a 1980s Southern California beach community who finds an unconventional path to power through the unlikely source of aerobics. It hails from Almost Family creator Annie Weisman and Dirty John showrunner Alexandra Cunningham.
Clements (right) says they are hopeful of shooting the show in LA in September, or as soon as they are given the go-ahead. “That’s ok because it’s an intimate show, there’s not a lot of crowd scenes or stunt work for Ms. Byrne.”
On a very different track is two anime projects – Cowboy Bepop and One Piece – both at Netflix. Cowboy Bepop is a live-action adaptation of a Japanese animated series, produced in association with original studio Sunrise. It’s a jazz-inspired, genre-bending story of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine and Radical Ed: a rag-tag crew of bounty hunters on the run from their pasts as they hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals.
John Cho stars, although a torn ACL, meant a nine-month production stoppage, time used by the team to write a second season, though not ordered yet by Netflix. The plan is to go back into production for season one in September in New Zealand, which as Clements says, looks more optimistic with regards to COVID-19 than many other countries.
Tomorrow Studios is also hoping to head to South Africa by the end of the year to film One Piece, a live-action adaptation of the best-selling manga title.
Adelstein says, “We started to go three or four times a year to Japan and our pitch was it takes five years to make these movies, you have to jam so much into an hour and a half, let’s make them as television series, you have nine years of episodes here, why would you make a movie. We have this foothold in Japan. It’s a whole new muscle.”
On the development front, the Steve Coogan and Hart Hanson-written The Persuaders, is a reboot of the ITV series that starred Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. It follows two reluctant heroes, a Brit and an American, who are forced to work as fixers for a shadowy billionaire.
Alan Partridge creator Coogan is coming off the back of starring in feature film Greed and the end of his cult British comedy The Trip, while Hanson created long-running Fox hit Bones. “They’re a dream team,” says Clements.
Also on its development slate are a number of book adaptations of Frances Cha’s I Had Your Face and Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society, which are both set at streamers.
I Had Your Face, which is set to shoot in South Korea, follows four young women making their way in a world defined by impossible standards of beauty, after-hours room salons catering to wealthy men, ruthless social hierarchies, and K-pop mania. Polite Society is a modern reimagining of Jane Austen’s Emma set in Delhi.
“We’re doing really big swings,” says Clements. “What’s delightful for those of us who have been doing this forever is that we’re moving beyond one point of view, one type of actor, one franchise genre, it gives us the opportunity to bring new settings and ideas to the world. That’s what keeps it interesting, you don’t want to do the same show for 20 years in a row. We love that the marketplace is responding to that, we can be eclectic because the market is eclectic. We couldn’t have sold three of these shows five years ago, but it’s all changing.”
Adelstein says this was all part of the original plan. “Early on we figured out to compete, we had to become an IP company, to get the [best] writers to work for us. We had to have IP that they wanted to work on. They have to have some sort of integrity. I’ve made a lot of silly shows in my life that have done really well but this is about quality of content and subjects we’re interested in.”
This suited backer ITV, which at the time was big in reality programming in the U.S. but had yet to crack the scripted market. During a trip to Europe, he pitched the British broadcaster, thanks in part to his former client Denise O’Donoghue, which was growing its production and distribution divisions. “I wanted to do this thing where I have a partner that has distribution that will fund the company and let us do what we want. I wanted to be free from the system and do a bunch of different things that strike Becky and I,” he says. “I walked out with a lot of money to fund the company. This was great because they have turned out to be the greatest partners I’ve ever had. They’ve not said no to anything we wanted, they’ve been super supportive and it’s the most fun.”
Adelstein, who exec produced Prison Break, and Clements’ patience is highlighted by a breakthrough for its adaptation of Swedish vampire story Let The Right One In. The project, which is based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s book, that was subsequently turned into a feature film, was passed on by TNT in 2017 and Adelstein says is nearing an order elsewhere. “We don’t let them die, we have a little bit of tenacity,” he adds.