'Houdini' Miniseries With Adrien Brody Gets Green Light at History

Kristen Connolly will co-star as the illusionist's wife in the four-hour scripted venture.
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Adrien Brody, left, and Harry Houdini

History is officially in business with Houdini.

The cable network announced Monday that it has ordered a four-hour miniseries about the famed magician and his wife.

Adrien Brody (The Pianist) will play Houdini in the Lionsgate/A&E Studios co-production, with House of Cards' Kristen Connolly playing his wife, Bess. Oscar nominee Uli Edel will direct the project, which hails from exec producers Gerald W. Abrams (Nuremberg, Modern Marvels) and Andras Hamori (Sunshine). Nicholas Meyer (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) will pen the series, with Patrizia von Brandenstein (Amadeus) on board as production designer. Karl Walter Lindenlaub will serve as cinematographer. 

The mini will trace the arc of Houdini's life from desperate poverty to worldwide fame. Production will begin in the fall. Houdini follows the man behind the magic as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists and encounters the greatest names of the era, from U.S. presidents to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Grigori Rasputin. The drama will chronicle the life of a man who can defy death through his stunts, his visions and his mastery of illusion.

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"It's not magic that History has established a strong track record with its high-quality historical dramas from quality auspices. We’re excited to build on that tremendous momentum with Houdini,” said Dirk Hoogstra, exec vp and GM at History. “The Great Harry Houdini is a fascinating man in history and I have no doubt that Adrien Brody will bring the magician’s riveting story to life for our audience.”

History's Hoogstra and Julian P. Hobbs will oversee for History.

“Since my childhood, when I dreamed of being a great magician, Harry Houdini has been one of my heroes,” Brody said. “His bravery and obsessive determination still fascinate me. Houdini mastered the art of escape -- not only from physical chains, but from poverty and the social constraints of a humble immigrant origin. His life story appeals to the universal longing for acceptance with which we all can identify. To portray him is beyond an honor.”

Added Lionsgate Television Group president Kevin Beggs: “It's exciting to be working with History, Adrien and our extraordinary creative and producing partners on Houdini. We're also delighted to be expanding Lionsgate's overall relationship with A+E Networks.”

Houdini, news of which was first announced in April, comes as History has found both critical and ratings success with its longform entries. The Bible concluded its 10-episode run with a two-hour finale that averaged 11.7 million viewers, boosting History's first scripted series,Vikings. Last summer's Hatfields & McCoys shattered network records over the course of its three-day run and concluded with 14.3 million total viewers. It was nominated for 16 Emmys, taking home wins for lead actor Kevin Costner and supporting actor Tom Berenger, among others.

Brody and Connolly are repped by Paradigm.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com 
Twitter: @Snoodit