FremantleMedia International and Corona Pictures have set Hollywood screenwriter JJ Connolly, who is best known for writing Layer Cake, to pen a TV adaption of the first three entries from Wilbur Smith’s Courtney novel series, beginning with Birds of Prey. The project marks the first time that a Wilbur Smith novel has been adapted for television.
Birds of Prey is set against a backdrop of the uncharted, tantalising and enigmatic Africa of the 17th century, offering the promise of the adventure of a lifetime and riches beyond their wildest dreams. The series chronicles three generations of the Courtney family as they battle to secure the clan’s fortunes in a land where sea-faring empires, privateers, wild animals and settled African tribes and nations fight it out for control of the land and its treasures. The series will be produced by Corona Pictures’ co-founders Richard Johns and Rupert Jermyn. FremantleMedia International will co-develop the series and handle international distribution.
“I’m really excited to help bring Birds of Prey to TV screens around the world. It’s an exhilarating prospect. Wilbur Smith’s stories are big and expansive – his themes are universal and timeless”, said JJ Connolly. “The thrilling challenge is to bring alive the passion and vision that Wilbur generated in his original novels, and deliver that power both to Wilbur’s legion of existing fans and to a new generation television audience.”
While Sarah Doole, Director of Global Drama, FremantleMedia added: “Wilbur is a world-class writer whose works require vision, passion and a sense of the epic if they are to be adapted properly. But with a screenwriter of JJ Connolly’s calibre, plus Richard and Rupert’s impressive track record, I think the stars have truly aligned on this project. FremantleMedia is incredibly excited to be part of this adventure and we look forward to talking to international networks in order to bring the series to global audiences.”
This marks the second scripted series that FremantleMedia International has announced as being in development ahead of MIPTV. The other is a remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame which is being penned by The Killing Fields‘ Roland Joffé and is tentatively titled Ugly. FremantleMedia plans to hold discussion with international broadcasters at MIPTV in Cannes next month. The company also recently acquired the distribution and format rights to Channel 4’s controversial factual series Benefits Street, and also plan to launch that series to the international market at MIP.