Germany Reviving 'Winnetou' Westerns for TV

Rialto Film

RTL is planning a series of TV movies based on the hugely popular books by German author Karl May.

Germany network RTL is bringing the hit Western franchise Winnetou to the small screen. RTL has confirmed it is planning a series of TV movies based on the best-selling Winnetou books, first written by German author Karl May in the late 19th century.

The Winnetou stories, featuring the titular Apache chief Winnetou and his white “blood brother” Old Shatterhand, are among the most successful and oft-adapted in German literature. Some 100 million Winnetou books have sold worldwide. Quentin Tarantino even pays tribute to the franchise in Inglourious Basterds in the scene where German soldiers are playing a who-am-I guessing game in which the answer is "Winnetou, chief of the Apaches!"

A series of Winnetou films, made in the 1960s and starring French actor Pierre Brice as Winnetou and American actor Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand, are evergreen repeats on German TV. The books and films flipped the traditional Cowboy and Indian dynamic by portraying Winnetou the Apache as the hero and white settlers mainly as villains.

Few details are known about RTL's reboot of the Winnetou franchise, but Wotan Wilke Mohring, who plays a police detective in top-rated German crime series Tatort, has signed on to star as Old Shatterhand. Veteran German actors Milan Peschel, Fahri Yardim and Jurgen Vogel are also reported to be among the cast. Who will play Winnetou is a matter of heated speculation in the German media.

German tabloid Bild, which originally broke the story, says RTL has already begun shooting three, 90-minute, Winnetou films and plans to air all three over the Christmas period this year. Christian Becker and Philipp Stolzl, the filmmakers behind recent hits Suck Me Shakespeer and The Physician, respectively, are set to produce the Winnetou reboots, together with Rialto Film.

Check out a trailer for the first Winnetou film (from 1963) below.