History has unveiled plans for a 100-film documentary series chronicling major events and notable figures from the past 100 years. Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Charles Ferguson, and Daniel Junge are among the documentary filmmakers lined up to produce projects for the series.
History has also set plans for a three-hour live special in July featuring modern-day daredevil Travis Pastrana recreating three of Knievel’s famous motorcycle stunts in Las Vegas. The cabler is set to unveil new programming to advertisers in New York Thursday evening as part of the upfront presentation hosted by its parent company, A+E Networks.
The “History 100” documentary initiative will include a look at Mikhail Gorbachev’s life and legacy from Herzog, who landed a series of one-on-one interviews with the reclusive former Soviet leader. Kopple will turn her camera back to the botched 1980 Delta Force mission to rescue more than 50 people held captive at the American embassy in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis.
Junge will examine the entrepreneurs and executives who launched the modern-day videogame business. Ferguson is working on a previously announced project examining the history of Watergate from a contemporary lens and with new information unearthed in recent years.
“The only way to understand today is to see it in the context of yesterday and History is committed to scouring the past for the most gripping, fascinating stories,” said Eli Lehrer, History’s exec VP of programming. “Our dynamic and diverse array of award-winning storytellers will bring the history of the past 100 years to life through the fresh voices and perspectives in these groundbreaking documentaries.”
History has yet to set a date for the “History 100” launch.
Meanwhile, “Evel Live” is billed as a 50th anniversary look at Knievel’s famed jump over the enormous fountain outside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas — a made-for-TV live stunt that left him badly injured.
Pastrana, billed by History as “America’s modern-day daredevil,” will attempt the same stunt in a Knievel-inspired vehicle on July 8. He’ll also try to clear a line of 50 cars and another line of 14 buses. The special marks another effort by an established network to generate a big crowd with live event programming a la NBC and Fox’s musicals or Discovery’s Nik Wallenda hire-wire stunts.
Here’s a rundown of films commissioned to date for “History 100”:
“Meeting Gorbachev” (working title)
Acclaimed director Werner Herzog meets Mikhail Gorbachev for a series of exclusive one-on-one interviews with the man who ended the cold war. Using Gorbachev’s personal archives as well as interviews with key political players from the last 30 years, this will be a deeply humanizing portrait of an enigmatic man who’s still viewed as a traitor by many Russians.
“Meeting Gorbachev” is produced by Spring Films and Werner Herzog Film. Directed by Werner Herzog and André Singer. Produced by Lucki Stipetic and Svetlana Palmer. Richard Melman is the executive producer. Molly Thompson is executive producer for HISTORY. “Meeting Gorbachev” is a HISTORY Films production in association with A&E IndieFilms.
“Desert One” (working title)
From two time Academy Award winning director Barbara Kopple, comes the incredible story of Operation Eagle Claw: the attempted Delta Force mission to end the Iran Hostage Crisis. On November 4, 1979, hundreds of Iranian students took up arms and took the American Embassy by storm, and the subsequent attempt to end the hostage stand-off would result in the death of eight American soldiers (while re-shaping how our Special Forces operate), and contribute to the electoral victory of Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter. Recounted in context of the broader crisis, “Desert One” will be a nuanced examination of the mission and its considerable legacy both at home and abroad.
“Desert One” is produced by Cabin Creek Films. Zachary Behr is executive producer for HISTORY.
“Rocket Women” (working title)
From Emmy nominated producer Jane Root, comes the incredible story of the very first would-be women astronauts, the Mercury 13. At the height of the US/Soviet space race, NASA’s Randy Lovelace embarked on a secret experiment: he recruited over 20 women to undergo NASA’s radical physical exam – the toughest in the world at the time. When many of the women passed, with some even outperforming the men, it opened up a whole new chapter in America’s space story and ignited an early public debate on gender equality.
“Rocket Women” is produced by Nutopia. Jane Root serves as executive producer for Nutopia. Zachary Behr is executive producer for HISTORY.
“Game on: The Improbable and Shocking Story of the Video Game Business” (working title)
This is the untold story of the personal battles that gave rise to the $100 billion video game industry. Brought to life by Academy Award winning director Daniel Junge, this film is a tale of brilliant innovations, colossal failures, and ego-driven rivalries on a massive scale. It is a 50-year-long, multi-generation epic featuring corporate coups, industrial espionage, secret burial grounds and the promise of unimaginable riches being just one cartridge away.
“Game on: The Improbable and Shocking Story of the Video Game Business” is produced by Efran Films and Stone Cottage Media. Daniel Junge serves as director. Morgan Hertzan and Shawn Efran are executive producers. Zachary Behr is executive producer for HISTORY.
From Academy Award winning director Charles Ferguson, comes the full story of the conspiracy led by President Richard Nixon and his White House staff and how they were brought to justice. New interviews with journalists, senior Nixon administration officials, members of congress, and prosecutors – combined with archival footage and newly sourced information from the Nixon White House tapes – will bring a fresh perspective on this complex story.
“Watergate” is produced by Representational Pictures. Charles Ferguson is director and producer, Krista Parris is producer for Representational Pictures. Michael Stiller and Molly Thompson are executive producers for HISTORY. “Watergate” is a HISTORY Films production in association with A&E IndieFilms.
“Where is Angel?” (working title)
From Left/Right, the award-winning producers of The Circus, this documentary will take viewers inside Air Force One on one of the most fateful days in U.S. history – 9/11. From this unique vantage point, viewers will experience the struggles of our nation’s leaders, and members of the civilian and military chain of command, as they grapple with the unforeseen nature and extent of the deadly attack.
“Where is Angel” is produced by Left/Right. Ken Druckerman and Banks Tarver are executive producers for Left/Right. Kristen Burns, Jim Pasquarella and Zachary Behr are executive producers for HISTORY.
“Cola Wars” (working title)
From Herzog & Company, the Emmy Award winning producers of Gettysburg, The History of Comedy and the acclaimed Decades Series – The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties – this film will explore how two of the most powerful companies in the world – Coca Cola and Pepsi – have used advertising campaigns, publicity stunts, and other cutthroat tactics in an incalculably expensive bid to each be the top purveyor of beverages to consumers. It is a story that speaks volumes about who we are as a people, shedding an illuminating—and not always flattering—light on why and how we make the decisions we do.
“Cola Wars” is produced by Herzog and Company. Mark Herzog and Christopher G. Cowen are executive producers for Herzog, with executive producers Robert Edwards and Ferne Pearlstein. Zachary Behr is executive producer for HISTORY.
“Axis of Addicts” (working title)
At the outset of World War II, the Nazis harbored a secret. In spite of their talk of racial, spiritual and physical purity – they were an Axis of drug addicts. It wasn’t just those in the trenches on drugs, Hitler and his High Command were chasing a state of supreme human function via uppers, downers and everything in between. This documentary will explore the origin, impact and lasting effects of the state-sponsored drug use that helped build – and eventually burn – the Third Reich. New sources of information, including never-before-seen historical records, reveal the extent of the Nazi party’s reliance on drugs to power their war effort.
“Axis of Addicts” is produced by World of Wonder. Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell and Jason Sklaver are executive producers for World of Wonder. Melinda Toporoff is executive producer forHISTORY.
(Pictured: Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, and Charles Ferguson)