Thesp leads A&E invasion

Selleck joins cabler, Sony joint production

A&E has signed Tom Selleck to star as General Dwight D. Eisenhower in a WWII docudrama about the high-level military planning that led to the Allied invasion of Normandy and eventual victory over the Germans.

Tentatively titled “Eisenhower: Thunder in June,” the movie will be a joint production of A&E and Sony Pictures TV, to be co-exec produced by Lionel Chetwynd and Stephanie Germain. Chetwynd will write the script based on the diaries and letters of General Eisenhower.

“We want this to be a ticking-clock movie,” said Bob DeBitetto, senior VP of programming for A&E, referring to the fact that the docudrama will focus on the 72 hours before D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Eisenhower and his strategists were secluded in Bushey House outside of London planning the invasion.

Weighing pressures

DeBitetto said the movie will deal with some of the political and military pressures weighing on Eisenhower, not only from his enemies but also from his frequently petty and argumentative allies the British and the French.

“My screenplay will make clear that in June 1944 Eisenhower was the most powerful man in the history of the world,” said Chetwynd. “He was commanding the most powerful military force ever assembled.”

Chetwynd said the next step is to hire a director and start scouting locations in New Zealand, with principal photography to begin early next year.

The production cost could come in at around $5 million, which is a big budget for an A&E movie. Focusing on the drama of generals in the war room discussing strategy, the movie will not re-create expensive battle scenes but will use newsreel footage for most of the war action.

A&E plans to schedule the two-hour movie next summer to coincide with the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

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