The project, entitled “Dressed For War: The Story of Audrey Withers, Vogue Editor Extraordinaire From the Blitz to the Swinging Sixties,” is based on a biography by researcher and historian Julie Summers, published by Simon & Schuster U.K. in February, with support from Vogue.
The title is envisioned by Gaumont as a multi-part returning drama series. The producer is in early discussions on casting and a female writer for the project who will work closely with author Summers.
Set in 1940’s London, “Dressed For War” is the untold story of Vogue editor-in-chief Withers, a dynamic young woman who was determined to transform an upper-class fashion journal into a provocative, informative magazine that served as a modern lifeline for women of all backgrounds. Withers, at one point, was regarded as the most powerful woman in London during the war, working closely with the government to change the domestic situation for women.
The project — which has yet to attach a broadcast or streaming partner — details Withers’ friendships with iconic names such as American model turned war photographer Lee Miller, which forms an integral part of the biography and series.
The deal was negotiated by The Agency (London) Ltd on behalf of Felicity Bryan Associates.
The option marks a key project for Gaumont U.K., which is helmed by producer and former Kudos executive Alison Jackson, who serves as CEO and executive producer. The division’s recent credits include a third season of Sky original “Tin Star,” co-produced with Kudos and starring Tim Roth. The show will air on Sky Atlantic later this year.
Gaumont U.K. was set up in August 2018 as part of the French studio’s European expansion, and followed the launch of Gaumont Germany in July. Much of the last year has been focused on development and wrapping up the latest season of “Tin Star.” The U.K. development team includes Ally Gipps, head of development; Jessica Connell, development producer; Jamie Jackson, senior development executive; and Jen Hawley, development executive.
“[Dressed for War] is a really interesting story that is great to have as part of our development slate. It’s a useful example of the kinds of shows we’re looking for,” Jackson tells Variety, noting the series will have a “hint of ‘Mad Men'” about it.
“All the shows we’re developing have a unique look at everyday people in extraordinary situations. We want to make shows that are primarily entertaining but are about something — that are accessible and have characters we really fall in love with, even if they’re doing something terrible.”
Jackson describes Withers as an extremely “contemporary” and “forward-thinking” protagonist. Gaumont U.K. was sent the manuscript for the book ahead of publication, and won rights following a competitive process with other production companies.
Vogue’s Harriet Wilson, director of editorial administration and rights, said of “Dressed for War”: “Viewers will witness the incredible bravery of women all across Britain during the war and the power of Vogue in entertaining, inspiring, and bringing together the collective spirit of these women during the most challenging of days.”
“Dressed For War” author Summers added: “The strong female team at Gaumont match Audrey Withers’ team at Vogue during the war and I am convinced they will produce a powerful drama for our times.”
As Gaumont U.K. ramps up production ambitions, the studio’s U.S. division is also in the works on a slate that includes season five of “Narcos” for Netflix, “El Presidente” for Amazon, as well as animated shows at Apple and Amazon. While Gaumont shuttered its Stateside distribution arm earlier this year, the production business has continued with a laser focus on SVOD commissions.
“We have multiple shows in development at all the platforms,” says Christophe Riandée, vice CEO of Gaumont, noting the studio focuses largely on streamers out of the U.S. “In the U.K., Germany and France, we work for both streamers and linear broadcasters.”
Gaumont will soon resume production in France on the Omar Sy-fronted “Arsène Lupin” for Netflix — a modern-day retelling of the story about the eponymous burglar and master of disguise.