Amazon Studios is bringing Dalton Trumbo’s long-gestating scripts to life.
The retail and streaming giant has handed out a straight-to-series order for a four-hour miniseries based on the saga of legendary conquistador Hernan Cortes with Javier Bardem set to star.
Created for television and written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), Cortes is based on the screenplay from the late Dalton Trumbo. Amblin Television and Steven Spielberg will exec produce the miniseries alongside Bardem, Zaillian, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey.
Trumbo originally wrote the script (known as Montezuma), which explored the relationship between Cortes and the Aztec emperor Montezuma, in the 1960s, a decade after he was blacklisted as part of the Hollywood Ten. It originally was planned to reteam Trumbo with Kirk Douglas, who starred in the former’s Spartacus. The property was revived in 2014 at DreamWorks with Zaillian attached to write, Bardem likely to star and Spielberg set to direct. (It’s unclear if Spielberg will direct the Amazon take.)
The Amazon miniseries revolves around Hernan Cortes, who led a rebellious expedition to the heart of King Montezuma II’s Aztec empire, connecting two civilizations for the first time and changing the course of history.
“We are so pleased that Amazon has given us the opportunity to bring this exciting 500-year-old story to Prime Video members worldwide. It is a part of history that had such a significant impact and largely influenced modern day civilizations. With Javier as Cortes, we have the perfect star for this role, and we can’t wait to get started,” Amblin Television co-heads Frank and Falvey said in a joint statement. Added Bardem: “It is a privilege to tell this epic story — one that is full of drama and conflict within this huge, historical spectacle where two distant civilizations clash at the height of their reign. The best and worst of human nature came to life in all its light and darkness. As an actor, there is no better challenge than to serve such a unique project that I have been passionate about for years, and I am thrilled to be working with this dream team of Steven Spielberg, Steven Zaillian and Amazon.”
Cortes is the latest high-profile pickup for Amazon, which has been on a mission— a mandate from CEO Jeff Bezos — to find its Game of Thrones. The streamer has since spent $250 million on global rights to a Lord of the Rings TV series in a deal with the J.R.R. Tolkien estate that started with outreach from ousted head Roy Price but ultimately was sealed by Yguado. Yguado also landed the rights to Consider Phlebas, the first book in Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” series, following a multiple outlet bidding war. The series arrives as former NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke recently started work at Amazon as its head of content, replacing Price.
“Cortes’ epic discoveries shaped the world as we know it today, and through the minds of Amblin, Steven Spielberg, Steve Zaillian and Javier Bardem, we will bring Prime Video members on an exhilarating journey,” said Sharon Yguado, head of scripted series at Amazon Studios. “There are few moments in history that shape an entire culture such as Cortes’ story, and this series will be one filled with drama and adventure.”
Cortes becomes Amblin’s latest TV foray, joining FX’s The Americans, CBS’ Bull, NBC’s upcoming Reverie, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and the untitled Rev Run comedy, Apple’s Amazing Stories and Hulu’s Animaniacs, among others in various stages of development.
For his part, Zaillian is rumored to be working on a second season of HBO’s Emmy-nominated limited series The Night Of (though nothing has been formally announced). He won an Oscar in 1994 writing Schindler’s List, which also took home trophies for best picture and best director (for Spielberg), among others. Zaillian also earned Emmy nominations for writing and directing The Night Of. He’s repped by WME and Gang Tyre.
Bardem’s credits include a supporting Oscar win for No Country for Old Men as well as The Sea Inside and Skyfall. Cortes will be his largest U.S. TV role yet. He’s with WME.