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Andrew Davies had not read War & Peace, the epic Leo Tolstoy novel, when he was first approached to adapt the title for the BBC.
“I was saving it up for my old age, and then somebody told me I was getting quite old so I better read it,” he told an audience gathered at the Grand Palais for the second day of MIPCOM on Tuesday afternoon.
He took the book on holiday in Antigua. And while he admits the 1,000-plus-page tome can be “difficult,” he reassured that viewers will be “grateful to me because I’ve sorted it out. I give my own interpretation. I pick out out the bits that I love.”
That’s not to say that the six-part miniseries — a co-production with The Weinstein Company — will not be a faithful adaptation.
The miniseries was shot on location in Russia, where many of the opulent 19th century palaces have been lovingly restored.
“It really adds to the sense of naturalism,” said Faith Penhale, executive producer and head of drama for BBC Cymru Wales, which is producing with The Weinstein Company as well as Lookout Point, the boutique London production company also behind Parade’s End and Ripper Street.
Penhole noted that reconstructing several palaces on a sound stage would have been cost-prohibitive anyway.
The title was a passion project for Harvey Weinstein, who tracked down Penhale to propose a co-production within 24 hours of the BBC’s announcement that it was adapting the Tolstoy classic.
Weinstein did not participate in Tuesday’s keynote session, but he held a star-attended screening of a 20-minute rough cut of the miniseries for international buyers Monday evening in Cannes.
In the U.S, the mini will air in 2016 across A+E Network’s Lifetime, A&E and History. The simulcast is a strategy increasingly employed at A+E to give its high-profile programs the best chance to break through in a noisy and crowded content environment.
And Lookout’s Simon Vaughan noted that with War & Peace, the message was: “This is a big deal and you better pay attention.”
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