×

Banijay Rights Signs First-Look Deal With Producer Ellie Wood (EXCLUSIVE)

Seeking to diversify and bolster its scripted output, Banijay Rights has signed a first-look development deal with Ellie Wood (“Bleak House”), a veteran British producer who founded and runs the independent production company Clearwood Films.

Under the pact, Banjiay Rights and Wood will work together to develop and produce all of Clearwood Films’ TV series for the U.K. and international markets. Banijay Rights will also handle international sales on the shows.

Caroline Torrance, the head of scripted at Banijay Rights, said this “new partnership further bolsters Banijay’s commitment and expertise in scripted programming, and capitalizes on the continued growth we are witnessing in the drama market.”

The first drama to be co-developed by both companies is “Stonehouse,” a spy thriller series based on an idea by John Preston, the author of “A Very English Scandal.”

The series will revolve around the true story of John Stonehouse, the former Labour Party Cabinet minister who faked his own death in 1974, leaving a pile of clothes on a beach in Miami. It was presumed he had gone swimming and drowned, or possibly been killed by a shark. Stonehouse was in fact en route to Australia to set up a new life with his mistress and secretary, Sheila Buckley. The scandal precipitated a national political crisis.

Preston’s “A Very English Scandal” dealt with another real-life British political imbroglio, that of an alleged plot by closeted gay lawmaker Jeremy Thorpe to have his lover killed.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the Stonehouse story. It’s every bit as bizarre as the Jeremy Thorpe affair and similarly tells the tale of an extraordinary character whose misadventures threatened to bring down the government,” said Preston, who will co-write the drama, which is currently in development.

The deal with Wood underscores Banijay Rights’s ambition to strengthen its positioning within the competitive scripted landscape in key territories. Banijay Rights recently signed a first-look agreement with another British production company, Greenacre Films.

“Banijay Rights’ experience and global presence will be hugely beneficial in putting us and our forthcoming shows in front of the key international players,” said Wood, who has worked on several award-winning dramas such as “Bleak House,” “The Line of Beauty” and “Decline and Fall.”

Wood is also set to produce the feature film adaptation of Preston’s novel “The Dig,” about the true story of the discovery of England’s Sutton Hoo treasure of Anglo-Saxon artifacts, with Nicole Kidman and Ralph Fiennes attached to star. The movie will start shooting this summer.

Wood, who has forged relationships with strong writers during her tenure at the BBC, said her company is primarily interested in producing one-hour, high-end drama series, with a particular interest in literary adaptations.

Banijay Rights CEO Tim Mutimer said his company was interested in both original series and shows based on existing IPs and is always looking for opportunities abroad, particularly in German and English-speaking territories.

“Banijay’s success with landmark drama series ‘Versailles,’ coupled with Nordic dramas such as ‘Occupied’ from Yellowbird made us realise that there was a huge global market for quality drama and fuelled our ambition to grow our activity in the scripted space,” said Mutimer.

In the past couple of years, Banijay has increased its investment in the scripted space, notably with the expansion of Yellow Bird, the thriving Scandinavian company behind “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “Wallander” in the U.K. and U.S. Established in 16 territories, Banijay Rights has built a strong drama hub in the U.K. with Neon Ink, Fearless Minds, and Blacklight, and has ramped up its presence in France with Terence Films and in Italy with the launch of Banijay Studios Italy.

Banijay Rights’ current drama slate includes “Straightforward,” a Scandi-New Zealand crime drama; “Hidden”, a Scandi urban fantasy; and “Wisting,” a Norwegian detective thriller based on Jørn Lier Horst’s crime novels. Banijay Studios France is also co-producing with Studiocanal Original “Mouche,” the French adaptation of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit comedy series “Fleabag.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    Sean Penn Drama 'The First' Was 'Unrelatable' to British Audiences, Channel 4 Exec Says

    Channel 4’s director of programs Ian Katz says the British broadcaster has learned a good lesson from the failure last year of its big-budget Hulu co-production “The First” to resonate with U.K. audiences. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Katz described the Sean Penn-starring drama about a mission to Mars as a “really classy piece [...]

  • Hugh Laurie

    Hugh Laurie to Star in New BBC Thriller 'Roadkill' by David Hare

    Hugh Laurie, the Golden Globe-winning star of “House” and “The Night Manager,” will play a beleaguered politician in a new four-part thriller for the BBC, “Roadkill,” from acclaimed playwright and screenwriter David Hare. The series is being produced by The Forge (“Collateral”). Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a charismatic Conservative Party government minister who remains [...]

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content