USA ships Helen mini as quite a knockout

Pic to trace story of Helen of Troy, bow on cable 2003

HOLLYWOOD — The face that launched a thousand ships is coming to USA Network via a four-hour mini-series the cabler is planning about the legendary life of Helen of Troy.

Project, to be produced by Fuel Entertainment and distributed by USA Cable Entertainment, is slated to go into production this summer and premiere on USA in the first quarter of 2003. Ronni Kern wrote the script; former USA Network senior VP of longform Adam Shapiro will exec produce.

“I am happy to be back in business with my USA family,” Shapiro said. “I look forward to bringing this amazing story to the screen.”

Pic will trace the story of how a savage war raged over the beauty of one woman, Helen, who risked everything to be with her lover, the young warrior Paris of Troy.

Jeff Wachtel, USA Network exec VP of series and longform program-ming, told Daily Variety that he and his team are looking at either trying to lure a big name, known for both her beauty and her acting prowess — or at launching a worldwide search for the perfect Helen. USA also could cast the net wide enough to include both strategies, he said.

The Helen project is an example of where Wachtel said USA hopes to go with its movies and minis.

“With events and with minis, the thread is that we will find stories that you know about but don’t know the substance of,” he said. “Like what we did with ‘Attila,’ this is familiar, but you want to know more. It’s a big story and also involves an interesting personal story that carries you through.”

Per year, USA plans to mount about four two-hour event longforms — a la the in-the-works Rudy Giuliani biopic and the Citadel-set “Company of Men” — as well as two minis each annum. At least one of the minis will take the form of a big history-oriented project.

Network also will continue developing about a dozen mystery movies annually.

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