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Netflix's 'Marco Polo' Sets Its Cast

Lorenzo Richelmy will play the title role, leading an all-star international cast in the series set to bow in late 2014.

Lorenzo Richelmy - P 2014
Courtesy of Netflix
Lorenzo Richelmy

Netflix's Marco Polo has raised its sail and set its key cast ahead of its late 2014 bow.

Lorenzo Richelmy has been tapped to star as the famed explorer in the drama series based on the adventures of Marco Polo, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The 10-episode drama was created by John Fusco (Young Guns II) and focuses on the famed explorer's journey that takes him to the center of a brutal war in 13th century China -- a world replete with astonishing martial arts, sexual intrigue, political skullduggery and spectacular battles.

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The native of Liguria, Italy, moved to Rome at age 4 and made his acting debut in a theatrical performance at age 8. In 2002, he starred in Il Pranzo della Domenica and counts TV roles including I Liceali. He was named best upcoming personality by the Italian Tourist Department in 2008 and was the youngest student admitted to Italy's top drama school, CSC. In 2010, he starred in Fat Cat, which netted him a best actor award at the Brussels International Film Festival as well as three other festivals in California.

Benedict Wong (Prometheus), Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas), Tom Wu (Skyfall), Remy Hii (Treading Water) and Rick Yune (Olympus Has Fallen) round out the cast.

Fusco and Harvey Weinstein will executive produce the drama. Dan Minahan (Game of Thrones, True Blood) will also exec produce and direct two episodes. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki) will direct the first two episodes. Patrick Macmanus will co-exec produce, with Collin Creighton producing for TWC. Electus will also exec produce and is currently selling the series at MIPTV.

The 10-episode series will film in Italy, Kazakhstan and the new Pinewood Studios in Malaysia. Marco Polo will premiere in late 2014 on Netflix.

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“Television audiences today are more discerning than ever before both in terms of character and the scope of the worlds those characters live in," Weinstein said. "We are proud to present a series that rivals some of the most successful films we’ve ever made. Marco Polo is a figure all have heard of but few truly know, and we are excited to introduce him to the world. And we are shooting all over the world. From the sweeping vistas of Kazakhstan, which act as backdrop for the wars and conquests of Kublai Khan to the intimate moments within the alleys and canals of Marco’s hometown of Venice, Italy, this is spectacle in the truest sense of the word."

Added Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos: "John, Dan, Joachim, Espen and our partners at The Weinstein Co. are elevating the art of storytelling and delivering cinematic quality that we’re certain our members will enjoy. In this commanding, epic story of Marco Polo, through the magnetic cast they’ve assembled, the spectacular martial arts work they are showcasing and the exotic locations that serve as a backdrop, they have really outdone themselves."

Richelmy is repped by Officine Artistiche in Italy; Wong is with Gordon and French in the U.K.; Zhu is with CAA and Larry Galper; Hii is with Innovative and RGM; Yune is with CAA, Evolution and Bloom Hergott.

Marco Polo has had a long road to the screen. The drama was originally developed at Starz, which picked up the drama straight to series in January 2012. The cabler released the project back to producers The Weinstein Co. -- and at the time, Electus -- after its attempts to film the series in China fizzled.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit