U.S. screenwriter Kirk Ellis, best known for adapting David McCullough’s “John Adams” biography for HBO, has been tapped by Fremantle to write the screenplay for “Bibi,” its TV series about scandal haunted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The previously announced high-end series about the personal and political life of Netanyahu – who on Sunday went on trial in Jerusalem on corruption charges one week after managing to remain in office after a protracted political crisis – is being produced by Tel Aviv-based Abot Hameiri, a Fremantle company.
It is based on prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit’s “The Netanyahu Years,” a bestselling biography of politically canny and deeply divisive figure known at home as Bibi who is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, in power since 2009.
“Ben Caspit’s insightful reporting demonstrates how private life always shapes public affairs, and there’s no shortage of conflict – or opinions – when it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Ellis in a statement. “I’m thrilled and honored to be working with Guy and the entire Abot Hameiri team to bring this story to life,” he added.
Besides serving as writer and co-executive producer on “John Adams,” which he won two Emmys for, Ellis has also adapted McCullough’s “1776” and James Ellroy’s “American Tabloid” for HBO. His many other credits include “Anne Frank: The Whole Story” for ABC, which he was Emmy nominated for.
Ellis was repped on the Fremantle deal by Myman Greenspan and Thruline Entertainment.
“Kirk’s esteemed catalog of work, particularly in exploring the lives of high-profile figures, makes him a perfect addition to this series,” said Guy Hameiri, co-founder of Abot Hameiri.
The producer also noted that “The series is the biggest IP we can deliver out of Israel today.”
Though there are several documentaries about Netanyahu, “Bibi” will mark the first TV series about his life. Born in Tel Aviv in 1949, Netanyahu attended high school near Philadelphia and later studied at M.I.T. before becoming a rising star during the early 1980s as a diplomat at Israel’s embassy in Washington.
His older brother Yoni, an officer in the Israeli army’s elite Sayaret Matkal unit, in which Benjamin also served, was killed in the 1976 hostage-rescue mission in Entebbe. Netanyahu’s role commemorating his brother gave him intense public exposure and prompted his political career.
Hameiri underlined that “Bibi” will be “an epic political story with a very big philosophical and psychological undertone,” he said, adding that: “At the same time, it will be a scandalous family melodrama that explores how the personal can become political, and vice versa.”
Abot Hameiri, which is is best-known for entertainment formats and reality shows, is currently seeking to take its premium-drama output to the next level after scoring a global hit with “Shtisel,” the dramedy about an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem.
Fremantle’s drama slate includes “American Gods,” “Mosquito Coast,” “My Brilliant Friend,” “La Jauria,” “No Man’s Land,” “The Luminaries,” “Dublin Murders,” and Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming “We Are Who We Are.”