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William Hurt to Star in Science Channel/BBC Challenger Docu-Drama (Exclusive)

He'll play scientist Richard Feynman in the factual telepic about the fight for truth in the space shuttle Challenger investigation.

William Hurt
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
William Hurt

William Hurt is heading to the Science Channel.

The Oscar winner has been tapped to star as U.S. physicist Richard Feynman in a factual drama exploring the truth behind the space shuttle Challenger's 1986 explosion, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.

The untitled telepic, a co-production with the BBC and Science Channel -- will explore Feynman's efforts to uncover the truth behind the disaster, which represented one of the most shocking events in the history of American spaceflight.

"This is the gripping story of a brilliant physicist’s battle for scientific truth in the dark corridors of big government. With an impressive cast including Hollywood legend William Hurt, it promises to be a powerful factual drama for BBC Two and part of our mission to make science programs ever more surprising and ambitious," said Kim Shillinglaw, BBC commissioning editor, science and natural history.

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Exploding 73 seconds into its flight on Jan. 28, 1986, a presidential commission was convened to explore what went wrong, with Feynman serving as an independent investigator to help uncover the secrets of the disaster. His efforts helped improve the safety of the space program. During his tireless work, the Nobel Prize winner for his breakthroughs in quantum physics was quietly battling cancer. Feynman died two years later.

"The Challenger disaster represents an indelible moment in American history -- anyone who is old enough to recall it remembers exactly where they were then this terrible tragedy occurred," Science Channel GM and exec vp Debbie Myers said. "Science Channel is honored to work with the incomparable William Hurt to tell the story of Richard Feynman, a true-life hero and one of more controversial scientific minds of our time."

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Filming will begin in October for a 2013 broadcast premiere on the BBC 2 and Science Channel. Laurie Borg (Great Expectations) will produce, with James Hawes (Doctor Who) on board to direct. The script was penned by Mistresses' Kate Gartside, with Science's Bernadette McDaid and Debbie Adler Myers on board to oversee for Science.

Hurt, who won a lead actor Academy Award for Kiss of the Spider Woman, most recently earned an Emmy nomination for his role in the telepic Too Big to Fail. He's repped by ICM Partners.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit