Dick Wolf has been called a television genius, Midas and mastermind. Now add survivor to the list.
Just when it looked like one of his three “Law & Order” shows would head into permanent hiatus, the producer-writer emerged from negotiations with his primetime trifecta intact.
And before you can say “Cha-chung!” Wolf has another reason to celebrate: the international premiere of his HBO film “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” at the Monte Carlo Television Festival, a fest he’s promoted for the past nine years.
“It seemed like a perfect, almost joint venture in terms of getting some really interesting actors over (to the fest) and at the same time being able to give HBO an award and highlight the film,” says Wolf, who as honorary consul to Monaco acts as the festival’s Hollywood ambassador. “Plus, I think it’s exactly the kind of film that international audiences would enjoy.”
An adaptation of the last two chapters of Dee Brown’s bestselling 1971 tome of the same name, “Bury My Heart” — about the final years of conflict between Native Americans and the U.S. government — is particularly relevant today, Wolf says.
“I believe the movie’s resonating now with what’s going on in Iraq, exactly the same way the book resonated with Vietnam,” he says. “Here we are doing it all over again — imposing one culture on top of another that has nothing to do with it.”
The international cast features “Law & Order” regulars like Fred Thompson (who cameos as President Ulysses S. Grant) and J.K. Simmons. Recent “SVU” addition Adam Beach stars as Charles Eastman, a historically real Ivy League-educated Indian physician whom screenwriter Daniel Giat inserted into the story as a witness to the horrors.
After 17 years of running the “L&O” franchise, which was built on the “ripped from the headlines” model of scriptwriting, Wolf knows about dramatizing real events.
“The people who are decrying putting a character that really existed into a fictional adaptation are splitting hairs. It’s not a documentary,” Wolf stresses.
“I’m sure people will be horrified that I would say something like this, but I think the film is closest in spirit to ‘Schindler’s List.’ ”
As “L&O” enters its 18th season and “Criminal Intent” moves to NBC’s basic-cable cousin USA, Wolf is bringing in the big guns to ensure the original series can last “five or six” more seasons. Not only is Rene Balcer, the showrunner from 1996-2000 who led the series to its only Emmy win for outstanding drama, returning, but “CI” executive producer Fred Berner is switching to the mothership.
“Rene and Fred work extraordinarily well together, and I do know that creatively this show is going to be in as good hands as it ever has,” Wolf says.