Dan Percival (“The Man in the High Castle”) will direct showrunner Frank Spotnitz’s high-end TV series about Leonardo da Vinci, which will portray the Renaissance genius in new ways, including as a gay outsider.
Working-titled “Leonardo” and commissioned by Italy’s Lux Vide, the ambitious eight-episode English-language show is expected to screen next year to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. “Leonardo,” which Lux is lead-producing, will also be the first project generated by The Alliance, the co-production group formed by continental Europe’s top pubcasters – Italy’s RAI, France Televisions, and Germany’s ZDF – in an effort to counter streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon.
Spotnitz, who co-wrote “Leonardo” with British writer Steve Thompson, previously collaborated with Percival on “The Man in the High Castle.” Each episode of “Leonardo” will revolve around one of Leonardo’s masterworks.
News that Percival is directing “Leonardo” emerged Wednesday at a press conference for Rome’s MIA Market for TV series, feature films and documentaries. The show will be among the high-profile Italian co-productions presented to prospective buyers at MIA in its Greenlit section by Walter Iuzzolino (“Walter Presents”).
In a previously published interview with Variety, Spotnitz confirmed that the show would probably mark the first time Leonardo will be portrayed on screen as being gay, news that caused a stir on social media in Italy. But Spotnitz also added that this is not central to his character.
“Some of his relationships were with men; those were significant relationships,” Spotnitz said. “But perhaps the most significant relationship in his life was with a friend who was a woman, with whom he was very close, and we unpack that.”
As for centering each episode on a Leonardo masterwork, Spotnitz said: “[What] Steve and I want to do is not just say that Leonardo was a genius, but really show why he was a genius and have the audience understand what it was that made him so brilliant and radical and centuries ahead of this time. To do that, you need to get really close to his work.”
Spotnitz and Lux Vide, for which the series celebrating Leonardo’s life and work marks a bold move with a hefty development investment, previously collaborated on the successful “Medici” series, the third season of which wrapped last December. That show’s broadcast date will be announced soon.