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Telemundo sets ‘Queen’ telenovela

TV unit snags rights to bestseller

NBC Universal’s Telemundo has snagged TV production rights to bestseller “The Queen of the South” (“La Reina del sur”) by Spanish author-journalist Arturo Perez Reverte.

The second-largest producer of Spanish-language TV content, Telemundo plans to make a 50-70 episode telenovela based on the 2004 novel, marking the first time it will be adapted for TV.

Story centers on a Mexican woman who flees to Spain after her drug-runner boyfriend is assassinated. She becomes the reigning drug smuggler in Spain, bent on seeking revenge on her lover’s killers.

“This will be our most ambitious and expensive telenovela ever,” said Telemundo Television Studios prexy Patricio Wills, who said that the budget per episode would be higher than average. Telenovelas tend to cost an estimated $100,000 per episode.

Casting is under way, with principal photography to begin toward the end of the year, according to Wills, who said Telemundo is courting co-producers.

Telemundo aims to shoot in Mexico, Spain and possibly Colombia and Florida.

But the escalating drug cartel violence in Mexico may mean the telenovela has to shoot elsewhere.

“We’ll tackle the security concerns when we get to that phase,” said Wills. “Maybe we’ll shoot in Morocco instead,” he added.

A feature film based on the book has been in development since last year with Eva Mendes, Josh Hartnett and Ben Kingsley attached.

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