Italian playwright Stefano Massini’s sweeping saga of family and finance “The Lehman Trilogy,” which is a hot ticket on Broadway in a Sam Mendes-directed adaptation, is being developed as a TV series for the international market by Italy’s Fandango, the prominent shingle behind Elena Ferrante skein “The Lying Life of Adults” for Netflix.
Fandango chief Domenico Procacci said he has acquired an option for TV rights to Massini’s “Lehman Trilogy,” which follows the three Lehman brothers, from their arrival from Germany in New York in 1844 to the 2008 bankruptcy of the global financial services company they founded.
Procacci, who is known to have a sharp eye for Italian IP that can travel –– having previously optioned Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels besides “Adults,” and Roberto Saviano’s “Gomorrah” mob saga –– said he is now developing the TV version of “Lehman Brothers” with Massini on board to oversee the series adaptation.
The Italian theater production of “Lehman Brothers” had its world premiere in 2015 at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, directed by late great Italian theater innovator Luca Ronconi.
It was this production that inspired Mendes to stage a condensed English-language version of Massini’s five-hour play adapted by Ben Power, who at the time was deputy artistic director of London’s National Theatre. The Mendes-directed production had several sold out runs in London before traveling to New York and elsewhere globally.
Massini’s “Lehman Trilogy” script has been praised by Variety as “a classy affair, storytelling that’s at once sumptuous and spare,” as critic Matt Trueman put it in his review of the 2018 National Theatre production, while Variety’s Marilyn Stasio reviewing the more recent Broadway production in 2021 called it a “dazzling biodrama.”
Procacci pointed out that “it’s very rare that a theater piece by an Italian manages to get this type of exposure outside Italy” and praised Massini for managing “to tell so effectively a story that doesn’t have any Italian elements, since most of it takes place in the U.S.”
Procacci did not disclose how Massini and the Fandango team plan to adapt the three-act Lehman Brothers theater piece for TV, besides noting that Massini has already fleshed out the material in his 5-hour play into a novel.
Rome-based Fandango, which has produced more than 100 movies, has been expanding its TV side lately and has several other high-end series projects in the pipeline which they’re keeping under wraps.
Shooting started in October in Naples on Fandango’s “The Lying Life of Adults” series, based on Ferrante’s most recent novel, which is a portrayal of a young woman named Giovanna’s transition from childhood to adolescence in the 1990s. Neapolitan helmer Edoardo De Angelis (“Indivisible”) is directing and Valeria Golino (“The Morning Show”) plays a prominent role. The plan is for “Adults” to drop on Netflix in 2022.