October 23, 2013 8:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
History Developing Miniseries Based on World War II Hero Felix Sparks (Exclusive)
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
History is going to war with Felix "Shotgun" Sparks.
The cable network is developing The Liberator, a miniseries that will tell the true story of the epic battlefield odyssey of maverick U.S. Army officer Sparks and his infantry unit as they fought over 500 days to liberate Europe.
The drama will cover battles from the Allied invasion of Italy to the liberation of the concentration camp of Dachau and follow Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment, comprised primarily of cowboys, Native Americans and Mexican-Americans as the unit battles to become one of the most decorated combat units of the war.
Jeb Stuart will pen the script for The Liberator, with Unique Features' Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne and Sarah Victor on board to executive produce. This the second attempt at television for Shaye, a former CEO at New Line, following 1988's syndicated horror show Freddy's Nightmares.
For his part, Stuart penned the screenplays for films including Die Hard, Another 48 Hours, The Fugitive and Fire Down Below. Over the past 25 years his features have grossed more than $2.5 billion. He's repped by UTA, Aaron Kaplan at Kaplan Perrone and Hansen Jacobson.
Shaye and his former New Line co-founder Lynne launched Unique in 2008 and have features Heavy Rain, 7th Son, Alien Zoo, City of Angels, Shiver and more in development. Liberator would be the production company's first foray into television.
For History, Liberator comes as the network is prepping to launch Houdini, a four-hour mini starring Adrien Brody. The cabler has found both critical and ratings success with its longform fare, including The Bible and Hatfields & McCoys, the latter of which shattered network records during its three-day run last year. History is also developing Sons of Liberty, a Revolutionary War miniseries following Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry and Benedict Arnold.
World War II minis continue to be big business for cable networks. FX recently picked up 10-part mini Telemark from Slumdog Millionaire's Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle and Christian Colson. HBO, which picked up 19 Emmy nominations and six wins for Band of Brothers and eight Emmy wins for The Pacific, also is developing a third WWII miniseries with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Masters of the Air will explore the Eighth Air Force, known as the men of the Mighty Eighth, and use Donald L. Miller's nonfiction tome Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany as source material.