‘La Fortuna’ Underscores Movistar Plus’ Global Ambitions

La Fortuna
© Manu Lozano (Movistar+)

Few high-end series say as much about their producers’ ambitions as Movistar Plus’ “La Fortuna,” starring Stanley Tucci and Clarke Peters, one of nine market screenings at this year’s Mipcom trade fair.

“La Fortuna” weighs in as the single biggest U.S.-Spain co-production in history, teaming Spain’s Movistar Plus, the pay TV-SVOD unit of giant European telecom Telefonica, and AMC Studios.

It has the Spanish media company’s biggest stars to date. Tucci, a 2021 Emmy winner for “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” plays Frank Wild, owner of Atlantis Underwater Searching, the world’s biggest American deep-sea discovery company. Peters (“The Wire”) takes on the role of Jonas Pierce, the world’s best maritime rights lawyer.

The AMC deal delivers, moreover, the most far-reaching distribution deal for any Movistar series to date with AMC Plus releasing the series in the U.S. and Canada this winter and Latin America and the Caribbean in 2022. Beta Film handles other international sales.

Straddling the U.S. and Spain and past and present, “La Fortuna” is also Movistar Plus’ largest scale series to date with on-location shoots across the length and breadth of Spain.

The series lensed at around 50 Spanish locations, a huge number, including Spain’s equivalent of the White House, Madrid’s Palacio de Moncloa. As the action gears up, “La Fortuna” enrolled the Spanish navy, army, civil guard and oceanography institute to access launches, helicopters, a deep sea submersible, tanks and three Hercules transport planes.

“La Fortuna” marks the first TV series from Alejandro Amenábar, who co-wrote and directed all of its six episodes.

His C.V. includes one of Spain’s first modern movies to involve true-blue Hollywood stars, the Nicole Kidman-led and Tom Cruise co-produced “The Others,” and the feat of recreating 391 A.D. Alexandria in “Agora,” toplined by Rachel Weisz. His “The Sea Inside” won a foreign-language film Oscar.

To attract world-class talent, Europe’s biggest SVOD players such as Movistar Plus have to guarantee the resources to allow top writer-directors to make the shows they want to make at the level of budget required and with reasonable freedoms.

“La Fortuna” is a case in point. “We talk about auteur cinema. Movistar Plus makes auteur series,” Amenábar told Variety.

“Our creative process in terms of freedom, respect and high standards towards creators is very unique,” says Movistar Plus CEO Cristina Burzako.

Amenábar’s creative freedoms cut various ways. “‘La Fortuna’ has the dramatic structure of a series but Amenábar’s direction is purely cinematographic,” says Domingo Corral, Movistar Plus director of original production.

“It was like shooting a film for over five months,” the director recalls.

The series adapts a Spanish graphic novel, “El tesoro del Cisne Negro,” by Paco Roca and Guillermo Corral. This is inspired in turn by the real-life sinking in 1804 of Spain’s Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes by British frigates — a tragedy which led Spain to declare war on Britain, precipitating Trafalgar and the Spanish empire’s definitive loss of dominion at sea.

“To explore the human side to the tragedy,” as Amenábar explains, he shot the whole naval battle from the point of view of Diego de Alba, based on the true-life figure of the captain of another Spanish frigate in the convoy who witnesses his whole family go down with La Fortuna.

In “La Fortuna,” Amenábar teases out a culture clash, not so much between Spain and the U.S. — though this yields some of the series’ comedy — but between two colliding world views.

“I didn’t want to make a black-and-white portrait of Spain and a criticism of America,” Amenábar said at a San Sebastian press conference before “La Fortuna’s” world premiere at the festival on Sept. 24. Rather, in Wild and Peters, he wanted to contrast two viewpoints: “Individual, egotistical interest and a reasonable honest person who thinks of the common good.”

That clash gives “La Fortuna” a global reach. “Wilds and Peters exist everywhere,” Tucci said in San Sebastián. It also means while “La Fortuna’s” court case is resolved in episode four, Amenábar continues to show how such world views impact the ultimate fates of all key characters in terms of their relations to the people they love most.