×

Series Mania: First Details on Co-Pro Pitching Project ‘Capturing Big Mouth’ (EXCLUSIVE)

LILLE, France — Belgian production company De Mensen, which has just been acquired by France’s Newen, has teamed with Reel One Entertainment on a new cross-continental thriller series, “Capturing Big Mouth.

The series will be pitched Monday at this year’s Series Mania Forum Co-pro Pitching section. It chronicles the unlikely rise and eventual fall of the infamous Somali pirates, based on the true story of Mohammad Abdi Hassan. For a decade Hassan helmed one of Somalia’s most successful pirate gangs, acquiring millions of dollars in ransom payments. In 2013 he declared he had retired, but authorities weren’t ready to just shrug it off, and the U.N., MI5 and the FBI combined on a five-year manhunt leading to Hassan’s eventual capture.

In the series’ fictionalized version of the tale, Belgian counterterrorism officer Peter Van Osselaer and British-Somali former MI6 agent Naomi Abdallah join forces to chase down the pirate leader Big Mouth, who always manages to keep one step ahead of the authorities.

The project was initially developed with De Mensen, which then brought in Reel One as a partner to help develop the series for the international market. The two companies are also working together on an English-language remake of De Mensen’s award-winning series “Tygar Chocolate.”

“Capturing Big Mouth” has a proposed – and substantial – budget of between $1.7 and $2.25 million per episode. According to Reel One’s Dominic Schreiber, the ambitions for the scale of the series are to create something akin to “Narcos” or “Traffik.”

The series was originally developed by writers Hans Van Nuffel and Ahsan Naeem. Naeem had a long and successful career in music before he started writing for film and TV, and has multiple projects currently in development. Van Nuffel’s debut feature, “Adem” (Oxygen), won him a European Film Award. He is currently writing a feature film with Naeem, and recently started working on his first video game.

Reel One is now aiding the writers in expanding the U.K. side of the story, as well as developing a stronger international focus for the series. So far the team has a detailed bible, and the writers are in the process of extensive research with plans to starting the writing process soon.

“We’ve been really lucky in that as well as managing to dig up all the publicly available material (newspaper articles, interviews, podcasts), we’ve had access to several U.N. reports on Somalia which focus on the role the real life version of Big Mouth has played in piracy in the region,” Van Nuffel explained to Variety. “A big help was also being able to talk to some of the key-players involved in investigating Somali piracy worldwide.”

Naeem elaborated: “Nearly all of the characters are based on ‘real’ people, so a lot of the story is pretty accurate even if we have to be clear that the show is ‘inspired by true events.’”

However, he clarified, “We’ve taken creative license in developing the personal relationships between the character known as Big Mouth and the network of people he works with as well his family.  Bringing to life his world in Somalia is something we’re really looking forward to doing.  There’s a richness to the land and the culture which is often overlooked.”

Headquartered in Montreal, and with offices in London, Los Angeles and Vancouver, Reel One has recently branched out from TV film production into scripted series creation. Its series projects also include a high-end adaptation of the Philip K Dick novella “Second Variety”;

60% owned by Newen, in a deal announced late February, De Mensen is one of the largest independent production groups in Belgium, producer of “Hotel Beau Séjour,” a banner Belgium Noir series and winner at 2017’s Series Mania, and of 2018 Canneseries’ competitor “Undercover,” an offbeat dysfunctional crime family drama teaming De Mension with Federation Ent. and Netflix, which co-developed and acquired most territories worldwide.

John Hopewell contributed to this article.

More TV

  • Jimmy Kimmel government shutdown

    Jimmy Kimmel Sets Live Classic Sitcom Special for May on ABC

    Jimmy Kimmel’s long-gestating live sitcom special is finally coming to fruition. Kimmel announced Thursday night on his ABC late-night show that the special, which was first announced in May 2017, will air Wednesday, May 22, from 8-9:30 p.m. ET. The special will see a cast of celebrity guests recreating two classic episodes of the sitcoms [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

  • The Village

    NBC Swaps Timeslots of Freshman Drama 'The Village,' 'The Voice' on Tuesdays

    NBC is changing the timeslots of Tuesday shows “The Voice” and “The Village.” Up to this point, freshman scripted drama “The Village” has aired at 9 p.m. ET Tuesdays immediately after “The Voice” at 8 p.m. Beginning April 23, “The Village” will air at 8 followed by “The Voice” at 9. The schedule will remain [...]

  • Donald Trump

    HBO Fires Back at Trump's 'Game of Thrones'-Inspired 'No Collusion' Tweet

    HBO is firing back at President Donald Trump after he sent another “Game of Thrones”-inspired tweet in response to the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation. “Though we can understand the enthusiasm for ‘Game of Thrones’ now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer [...]

  • Joel Edgerton Headshot

    Joel Edgerton Joins Barry Jenkins' 'Underground Railroad' Amazon Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Joel Edgerton has signed on for a role in the Barry Jenkins’ Amazon series “The Underground Railroad,” Variety has learned exclusively. Edgerton will play the part of Ridgeway, a slavecatcher. He joins previously announced cast members Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, and Aaron Pierre. The role will mark Edgerton’s first regular TV role in some time. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content