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Sony Boards Frank Spotnitz’s ‘Leonardo,’ Starring Aidan Turner, Freddie Highmore

Sony Pictures Television has joined Italy’s Lux Vide and RAI Fiction as co-producer and international distributor of Frank Spotnitz’s high-end TV series about Leonardo da Vinci, which started shooting Monday in Rome.

The eight-episode “Leonardo” (working title) stars Aidan Turner (“Poldark”) in the title role and Freddie Highmore (“The Good Doctor”) as Stefano Giraldi, a fictional Milanese police officer investigating Leonardo as the suspect in a murder case. Highmore is also on board as executive producer. It is being directed by Dan Percival (“The Man in the High Castle”).

Other key cast members include Italy’s Matilda de Angelis as Milanese noblewoman and Leonardo muse Caterina da Cremona and Giancarlo Giannini in the role of Renaissance master Andrea del Verrocchio, of whom Leonardo was a student.

The plan is for the English-language series to play next year to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. “Leonardo” is expected to become the first project to hit the airwaves from The Alliance, the co-production group formed by continental Europe’s top pubcasters. Besides Italy’s RAI, France Televisions is also on board. The pubcasters have banded together to counter streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon.

Each episode in the series will center on one of Leonardo’s masterful achievements in various fields, not limited to art, and will seek to portray the Renaissance genius in new ways.

A project synopsis provided by Sony noted that all of Leonardo’s work, whether it was art, science, painting, engineering, anatomy or poetry, “displayed a deep humanity that was determined to unfold the mystery of the world around us.”

“While [Leonardo] da Vinci made his name in Florence, people everywhere feel he is somehow a part of their story,” Brendan Fitzgerald, SVP of international co-productions for Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement.

Eleonora Andreatta, head of of RAI Fiction, said the show is “dedicated to a historical character who embodies the cultural and human power of the Renaissance, in a synthesis that marries a powerful Italian identity with a wealth of values of universal relevance.”

Lux Vide CEO Luca Bernabei said he was “delighted that Sony Pictures Television and Freddie Highmore’s Alfresco Pictures felt as inspired and enthusiastic to come on board.”

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