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FX is taking a big swing — with a familiar name — for its next limited series.
The cable channel has ordered up a 10-episode Shogun adaptation in what FX is calling its “largest international scale production to date.” The series will be based on James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same title, which in turn inspired a hit 1980 NBC miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain.
“The story of Shogun has captivated audiences since James Clavell first released his epic novel more than 40 years ago,” said John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks. “The themes of an outsider encountering a new culture are as relevant today as then. We are honored to bring the series to today’s viewers.”
The project has been on FX’s radar for some time. Back in 2013, FX Productions teamed with producer Michael De Luca — who is an executive producer on this version — and writer Nigel Williams to develop an adaptation for the Fox broadcast network.
Shogun is the story of English sailor John Blackthorne, who ends up shipwrecked in feudal Japan circa 1600. He eventually becomes a confidant of Lord Toronaga, a powerful daimyo (feudal lord). The story also centers on Lady Mariko, a female samurai “with invaluable skills but dishonorable family ties.”
The 1980 miniseries was told from Blackthorne’s (Chamberlain) point of view as a European man in a strange land, a style of storytelling that wouldn’t necessarily work as well now. Speaking to the press Friday, Landgraf said the Japanese characters will have equal footing in FX’s adaptation.
“There’s a lot of really fun and fascinating work going on to try to balance the story out and tell it from both points of view,” said the exec. “We’re also casting … really, really wonderful Japanese actors. I agree with your assessment that if [it is to] just sort of exoticize and fetishize Japanese culture through Western eyes and the male gaze, it would probably not fly. But I think there’s an exciting opportunity to tell the collision of two cultures from both perspectives.”
Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, Top Boy) and Rachel Bennette (NW, Bel Ami) are writing the series and will executive produce with Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich of DNA TV; De Luca; Michaela Clavell; and Tim Van Patten (The Sopranos, Game of Thrones), who will direct multiple episodes. The series will film in Japan and the U.K.
Macdonald and Reich are also executive producing another FX project announced Friday, the limited series Devs.
The September 1980 miniseries Shogun, which spanned 12 hours over five nights, was the first (and as of now only) American TV production that filmed entirely in Japan. It delivered what were at the time the biggest weekly ratings in NBC’s history, averaging a 26.3 household rating. It won three Emmys the following year.
There’s no target date yet for Shogun on FX.
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