×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Das Boot’ Sets Course for Overseas Success

When Bavaria Fiction executive producer Moritz Polter looks out at the company’s backlot from his office window, he can see the original sets built for “Das Boot,” the classic 1981 movie set in the belly of a German U-boat that’s been recently rebooted with stellar results.

The Oscar-nominated anti-war pic, directed by Wolfgang Petersen and based on Lothar-Gunther Buchheim’s autobiographical bestsellers, was the most expensive feature film to come out of postwar Germany at the time; now “Das Boot” has undergone a major refit and resurfaced as one of the country’s most expensive TV shows and a ratings hit wherever it has aired.

Budgeted at roughly $32 million, and shot over 105 days in Munich, La Rochelle, Prague and Malta, the eight-episode series directed by Andreas Prochaska stems from brainstorming among Bavaria Fiction (a subsidiary of Bavaria Film and ZDF Enterprises), paybox Sky Deutschland and Sonar Entertainment, which has sold it to more than 100 territories.

The “Das Boot” reboot effort “all began with discussions about what we wanted to do, meaning: Do we do a remake? Do we do a sequel? Do we do eight parts?, six, 10?… Do we do a movie at the same time?,” Polter says.

It was decided to make it a sequel of sorts. But when they sat down with writers Johannes W. Betz and Tony Saint, “we very quickly realized that actually doing a real sequel would probably also be fairly problematic, given where the story of ‘Das Boot’ ends, meaning pretty much everyone being dead,” he says. They “needed to find an intro into the series that would hook the audience that was expecting to get ‘Das Boot’ [the movie] and at the same time start a completely new show.”

Thus the revived “Das Boot” is set in fall 1942, months after Petersen’s movie ended. The tide is turning against the German war effort after the Allies solve the Enigma code and opposition to the Nazis intensifies. It tells dual stories: there is the journey of the U-boat, and the story of the Resistance movement in La Rochelle.

This dual storyline generates a momentum in viewers “of always missing the other [storyline],” says Polter, who boasts that “creating that binge-watching urge was something I wanted to achieve, and looking at the numbers it seems as though that worked.” In its most recent outing “Das Boot” debuted in January on Sky in Italy, scoring the best ratings ever for a European production on the paybox.

Sky Deutschland senior VP of original productions Marcus Ammon says it was more or less a no-brainer to greenlight the second season. “It happens once every 10 years that you have the opportunity to build on a brand like that,” he says, and underlines that “the story is written in such a way that you can go on until the war is over.”

More TV

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Ken Jeong to Star in CBS

    Ken Jeong to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot From 'Crazy Rich Asians' Author Kevin Kwan

    A “Crazy Rich Asians” reunion is happening at CBS. Ken Jeong has been cast in a lead role in the multi-camera comedy pilot “The Emperor of Malibu,” which is being co-written and executive produced by “Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan. In the series, Auggie, the son of a Chinese tech billionaire, announces his engagement [...]

  • Jussie SmollettFOX 'Empire' TV show panel,

    Jussie Smollett Case: Chicago Police Arrest Two Suspects

    Chicago police confirmed on Friday that they have arrested two suspects in the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. The police did not state what charges the men are being held on. Local media have identified the men as two brothers from Nigeria, though law enforcement has not confirmed their identities. Smollett’s representatives have declined [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content