Sky, Amazon Team on Roman Invasion Drama 'Britannia'

Kelly Reilly - Getty H 2016
Credit: Getty / Larry Busacca

'True Detective' star Kelly Reilly will appear in the historical period drama about the Roman Empire's AD43 invasion of Britain, penned by 'Spectre' scriptwriter Jez Butterworth.

Amazon is set to head into the world of swords and sandals, having joined forces with U.K. pay-TV broadcaster Sky to produce a major new historic original drama.

Britannia is set in 43AD, at the start of the — eventually — successful Roman invasion of Britain, ordered by emperor Claudius (Caesar had tried twice before and failed). The 10-part drama sees the Roman Imperial Army — determined and terrified in equal measure — return to crush the Celtic heart of what was then Britannia, a mysterious land ruled by wild warrior women and powerful druids rumored to be able to channel powerful forces of the underworld. The conquest would eventually lead to the rise of Boudica, queen of the Iceni tribe, who led an uprising against the Romans and would become an icon in British history.

Penned by Jez Butterworth, who was among the writers for the latest 007 outing Spectre, Britannia will star Kelly Reilly (True Detective, Calvary), David Morrissey (The Walking Dead, The Hollow Crown), Zoe Wanamaker (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, My Family) and Stanley Weber (Outlander).

The series is shooting on location in Prague and Wales and will be available in 2017 on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and on Sky 1 in the U.K. and Ireland. It was commissioned by Amazon Studios head Roy Price, alongside Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah, commissioning editor Cameron Roach and Sky 1 director Adam MacDonald. Vertigo Films’ James Richardson (Monsters, Bronson) will executive produce with Pippa Harris and Nicolas Brown from Neal Street Productions (Penny Dreadful, Call the Midwife) and Anne Thomopoulos (Rome, Band of Brothers). It will be produced by Rick McCallum, who produced the Star Wars prequels, while Jez and Tom Butterworth (Fortitude, Tin Star) will lead as writers with Richard McBrien (Spooks, Merlin). 

"Besides being hard, hard warriors, the Celts have a belief system which makes them almost invincible. It’s a deep, heavy magic," said Jez Butterworth. "Last time the Romans tried to invade, the mighty Julius Caesar took one look, turned round and went straight home. Now, almost a century later, the Romans are back. Here we have a war between two pantheons — the Roman gods vs the Celtic gods. It’s the heavyweight clash of all time, the one which most shapes who we are today."

Sky's Mensah described Britannia as "one of the most ambitious dramas" the broadcaster had made. "Jez Butterworth has written an incredible drama that is entertaining and emotional but also asks important questions about what drives men and women to stand and fight," she said. "This is a battle for the heart of Britain like you’ve never seen before."

Sky's international sales arm Sky Vision will handle international distribution rights. WME and Sky Vision negotiated the deal with Amazon.