MIA Market: Matthew Modine Joins Psychological Thriller Series 'Sanctuary' (Exclusive)

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Matthew Modine

Fabula Pictures is currently shooting the new show in Italy among a slate of international series.

Matthew Modine is currently shooting Nordic Noir-style psychological thriller Sanctuary from Italy's Fabula Pictures and Sweden's Yellow Bird. 

Modine – recently seen in Sicario: Day of the Soldado – stars as a twisted doctor in charge of a sanatorium, and Swedish actress Josefin Asplund (Vikings) plays dual roles of twin sisters. It started shooting in Treviso, Italy, in July and is expected to wrap early next month.

Based on the novel The Devil’s Sanctuary by Marie Hermanson, the series will consist of eight 45-minute episodes. In an effort to connect with her last surviving family member, Helena visits her twin sister, Siri, who is locked away in a gorgeous sanatorium in the Alps. Helena does not know that the facility is a secret research facility devoted to studying and curing psychopaths, nor does she know that her sister is one such psychopath.

Siri switches identities and escapes, leaving Helena locked up and unable to convince the staff that there has been a mistake. In order to survive, she becomes manipulative, unrestrained and perhaps even murderous, all qualities of psychopaths. It’s not long before she begins to question her own sanity.  

“The normal one, she becomes the craziest,” says Nicola de Angelis, head of development and international co-productions at Fabula Pictures. “She’s now trapped in this sanctuary where there are very bad things happening with this very strange charming doctor, played by Matthew Modine. It’s very strange to see Modine in this kind of role, which is very dark, very Nordic.”

The series was created and written by Charlie Fletcher and Rachel Flowerday, and directed by Oskar Thor Axelsson and Enrico Maria Artale. StudioCanal is handling international sales, with Sweden’s Tv 4 and Germany’s Tele Munchen already on board. In addition to providing production services, Fabula Pictures also has a minority stake in the project. 

Fabula Pictures, founded by Nicola and Marco de Angelis, is looking to take on the international marketplace with a slate of upcoming series.

The company was just last week acquired by Pascal Breton’s Federation Entertainment, which bought a majority stake. Federation is expected to strengthen Fabula with multiple resources in its network to increase Italian production output.

Like most Italian production companies today, creating for an international market is a key part of their strategy.

“We are so much into international right now,” says Nicola de Angelis. “So we are working extensively within the U.S. and Europe to create as much content as we can.”

Fabula Pictures is also developing for Sky – together with France and the U.K. – Dragons, a geopolitical thriller about the criminal organizations that control the oil-drilling business in North Africa. The show is currently in development and expected to go out in the last quarter of 2019 and will also feature an international crew and cast. It is set to will tackle the oil business in the Mediterranean as a whole, exploring the shady business of companies competing for the best drilling spots.

While the company's eye may be on international content, Fabula Pictures is still developing a number of local projects. Coming out Nov. 30 is Baby, Netflix’s second-ever Italian original series. The show is based on real events from 2014 involving a group of wealthy young students who engage in a prostitution ring with powerful members of Italian society.

“It’s going to be a smash-hit drama for Italy. We are so proud to be part of this big stuff happening with Netflix here,” says de Angelis of Baby.

“It’s a short body of research on love. Teenagers always struggle in searching for love,” she added. “They make mistakes, they may do bad stuff, and we’re telling basically this coming-of-age story about making mistakes in a wealthy Roman environment.”