Christian Becker Rides West with ‘Winnetou’ TV Drama

Best-selling German adventure series to get modern Western update

Leading German producer Christian Becker (“The Wave,” “Suck Me Shakespeer”) is to adapt Karl May’s stories about Apache chief Winnetou and his companion Old Shatterhand for television. Beta Film is co-financing and handling world sales on the miniseries, which has the working title “Winnetou.”

Director Phillip Stoelzl (“North Face,” “The Physician”) has started shooting the three-part drama in Croatia for Germany’s RTL.

The books of May’s Winnetou Western cycle are the most successful German adventure series ever. They have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. The success of the books were cemented by the 1960s Winnetou feature film cycle. May, an adventure writer working around 1900, never actually visited the American West.

In the new TV series, the friendship of hero Old Shatterhand and of the Apache chief Winnetou is given a modern-day treatment as an emotionally moving adventure in the American West. The scriptwriters are Jan Berger (“The Physician”) and Alexander M. Ruemelin (“Volcano,” “Transporter”).

Wotan Wilke Moehring (“Hindenburg,” “Valkyrie”) plays Old Shatterhand, the up-and-coming actor Nik Xhelilaj (“The Albanian”) assumes the role of Winnetou, Milan Peschel (“Open the Wall”) will be seen as Sam Hawkens and the Mexican thesp Iazua Larios (Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto”) is Nscho’Tschi. Alongside them are Juergen Vogel (“The Wave”), who makes the heroes’ life difficult as Rattler, Fahri Yardim (“Almanya”) and Matthias Matschke (“Grand Budapest Hotel”).

It is produced by Rat Pack’s Becker (“Vicky the Viking”) and Christoph Mueller (“Sophie Scholl,” “Young Goethe in Love”). Co-producers are Matthias and Felix Wendlandt of Rialto Film, whose company produced the original Winnetou feature films in the ’60s; Marcus Englert; Mythos Film; and Tabbenoca. Producing for RTL is Philipp Steffens (“Deutschland 83”) with Brigittte Kohnert and Nico Grein.

Composer Martin Boettcher’s original “Winnetou” melodies will be newly arranged and interpreted by Heiko Maile (“The Wave,” “Turkish for Beginners”).

Beta Film will present the first images at Mipcom in October in Cannes. RTL will broadcast “Winnetou” next year.

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