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Thomas Bidegain Takes on ‘Siege of Mecca’ Series for HBO; Develops Sophomore Feature (EXCLUSIVE)

French writer and director Thomas Bidegain, whose screenwriting credits include Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers,” has joined forced with Noé Debré (“Dheepan”) to co-write a miniseries based on the “The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda,” the 2007 book written by Wall Street Journal correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov.

Produced by Vice for HBO, the four-part series chronicles the 1979 Grand Mosque seizure in Mecca by Islamic radicals.

“It’s a crazy story. Salafists invaded the Mecca and the hostage situation lasted for 14 days with tens of thousands of people, including some Americans, Saudis and Iranians, who were trapped inside; no one understood what was happening, the negotiations lasted two weeks,” said Bidegain, who pointed out that earlier that same month as the siege, Iranian students had taken more 60 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The Forge is executive producing the series. Bidegain and Noé are frequent collaborators, having worked together on Audiard’s Palme d’Or winning “Dheepan” and Bidegain’s feature debut, “Les Cowboys,” which world-premiered at Cannes’s Directors Fortnight in 2015.

Bidegain and Noe have also been collaborating with Tom McCarthy on the script of a film McCarthy is meant to direct. Bidegain said McCarthy approached him after watching “The Cowboys,” his directorial debut.

Bidegain is currently developing his sophomore feature, “Soudain, Seuls” (working title), a drama based on French sailor-turned-writer Isabelle Autissier’s novel.

Alain Attal’s Tresor Films is on board to produce the movie. Bidegain said he was exploring the possibility of making the film in English and cited Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as an example of a powerful film with an international cast financed in Europe.

“There are so many talented actors I could approach if I made this in English; and after ‘The Sisters Brothers,’ the planets seem to be lined up for me to make that leap,” said Bidegain.

“Soudain, Seuls” is a compelling story because it’s both an intimate portrait of a couple and at the same time a depiction of the wilderness, he says. “It’s a close look at two people whose shared utopia and bond gets tested as they struggle to survive in extreme circumstances,” said Bidegain.

 

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