One of Europe’s most revered film groups, Pathé, is stepping into TV drama with Philippe Rousselet’s thriving Vendôme Group to co-produce an ambitious miniseries retelling the devastating fire that ripped through the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.
The companies are partnering with U.K.-based Xavier Marchand’s Moonriver TV to co-develop the project, surely one of the highest-profile to be announced during this year’s Mipcom, for an international audience. In a key move, Pathe and Vendôme have co-acquired TV rights to The New York Times’ exclusive reporting shedding light on what triggered the fire and how firefighters and police officers battled to save the iconic cathedral from total destruction.
The untitled drama series, which is now in the early stages of development, is the first TV project to be announced under the new three-year Vendôme/Pathé production partnership unveiled at Cannes.
The series will reconstruct the timeline and events of April 19 after a warning light first detected fire in the attic of the cathedral. The producers are developing the story in collaboration with The New York Times and Anonymous Content.
Rousselet told Variety that the inspiration for the show was “Chernobyl,” which revolves around an emblematic topic and follows a myriad of characters, telling a story through multiple perspectives. The producer said the show will shoot mainly in English but will feature characters who speak different languages to make the series feel as organic as possible. Vendôme and Pathe are in talks with screenwriters and a renowned British director.
“Notre-Dame is more than a building. It is where Paris was born and is part of its very soul. This dramatic series will tell the true story of what happened that devastating night, but it’s not just about the events of April 19,” said Rousselet who is producing the series with Fabrice Gianfermi, the co-CEO of Vendôme Group, and Marchand, CEO of Moonriver TV.
Rousselet said the series will tell “a universal tale” reflecting on the “heart of a country’s culture and the inherent fragility of life itself.”
Ardavan Safaee, the chairman of Pathé Films, said the project presented the perfect opportunity for the company to make its first ambitious and compelling TV series because of Notre-Dame’s international dimension and the breadth and depth of the New York Times investigation.
“The Notre-Dame fire came as a huge shock and instantly struck a chord, first with Parisians then with the entire nation. Within minutes, an international wave of emotion washed over Paris,” said Safaee, adding that Notre-Dame was a “pearl of our architectural and religious heritage.”
Like Rousselet, Safaee said the HBO show “Chernobyl” was a “inspiration for the way it explores a dramatic, multi-layered story through different angles and is driven by strong characters who played a role in the events.”
The project reteams Rousselet with Marchand, with whom he worked on “Lord of War.” Marchant, who is based in London, said he was “struck by the strength of emotion from people of all nationalities and the common feeling of loss and sadness” and “enthralled by the heroics of the French firefighters, prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to preserve this symbolic cathedral.”
In the wake of the tragic fire, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been pledged by organisations and individuals around the world to start the rebuilding of the Notre-Dame, with the aim to reopen the Cathedral to the public in five years. Experts meanwhile predict the full restoration process could take decades if it is to return the cathedral to its former glory, according to the series’ producers.
Earlier this year, Pathé Films and Vendôme Group announced an exclusive production deal to develop and produce English-language films, kicking off with “Coda,” a remake of the 2014 French box office hit “La Famille Belier,” written and directed by Sian Heder (“Orange Is the New Black”).