Galicia’s Vaca, Portocabo Bet on Thriller ‘Garbo’ to Kickstart TV Fiction Alliance

Mini-series project, based on legendary WWII Spanish spy, conceived as a high-profile European co-production

Vaca, Portocabo Bet on Thriller 'Garbo'
Photo: Emiliano de Pablos

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Portocabo and Vaca Films, two production outfits based out of Spain’s Galicia, both with an international scope, are teaming on historical thriller mini-series “Garbo, El espía que engañó a Hitler” (literally: Garbo, The Spy Who Double-Crossed Hitler), as the start to a TV fiction alliance.

Inspired by the life of the one-off Juan Pujol, alias Garbo,a Spanish double agent who helped change the course of World War II, the six-episode TV drama is penned by film director and screenwriter Patxi Amezcua (“25 Carat,” “7th Floor,” “Capture the Flag”) with Pujol’s biographer and WWII espionage expert, Javier Juárez, serving as a consultant.

With no military or covert operation training, Garbo offered his services to the British as a spy against the Nazis but was rejected. Instead, he set himself up as a German agent, operating out of Lisbon but pretending to the Nazis that he was based in London. He was finally accepted into British WWII counter-intelligence.

The series, with doses of suspense, action and even comedy, despite the tragic historical context, will focus on Garbo and his relationship with reputed British spy Thomas Harris, which in 1944 helped to persuade German defense forces to focus on an Allied landing in Calais, rather than Normandy, where they took place,

Portocabo’s Alfonso Blanco and Vaca’s Borja Pena (pictured, from right to left) will executive produce. A prestigious Spanish director will be soon attached to the project, they said, adding that the series should be ready to go into production in 2019, with Spanish and British actors, after one year’s development and pre-production.

The announcement was made Wednesday at a press conference at Spain’s Conecta Fiction, the new TV co-production meeting who runs June 21-23 in Santiago de Compostela.

Conceived as a high-budget series, the producers are pitching “Garbo” to potential TV partners hailing into Galicia’s Santiago de Compostela from Europe, Latin America and the U.S..

“The adventures of Juan Pujol took place in Spain, Lisbon and London, and they also have obvious links with France and Germany, so the story fulfills the parameters of a great European co-production in a natural way,” Pena said.

“TV fiction is changing and now you can make productions with larger scope and artistic ambitions. Synergies between film and TV producers are emerging in a natural way,” Blanco said.

Portocabo is currently developing “Hierro,” a thriller TV series, winner of best project at Berlinale’s 2015 CoPro Series, in partnership with Lagardere’s Atlantique Productions, Spanish pay TV giant Movistar+ and broadcaster Arte France.

“Garbo” marks the first project at Vaca TV, Vaca Films’ new TV drama production label. Run by Pena and Emma Lustres, Vaca has produced from 2009 some of Spanish B.O. most successful films, often action thrillers, such as Daniel Monzon’s “Cell 211” and “El Niño,” Dani de la Torre’s “Retribution” and Daniel Calparsoro’s “To Rob a Thief.”

“Garbo” kicks-off a new TV fiction alliance between both La Coruña-based companies, aimed at sharing their respective know-how in TV and film.

At February’s Berlinale, U.S. Storyscape Ent. launched sales on “The Garbo Network,” a Oscar Isaac-starred feature, also inspired by the same historical character.