UPDATE June 28, 2007:
National Geographic Films is co-producing with Brad Pitt and Edward
Norton a 10 hour HBO miniseries, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
, based on Stephen
Ambrose's famous book. The mini series is in production ...
HBO is teaming with National Geographic, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt for
a 10-part miniseries adaptation of the Stephen Ambrose book about
explorers Lewis and Clark.
Norton, who will direct at least one of the episodes, will exec produce
the mini with Pitt, National Geographic Ventures prexy Tim Kelly and
Adam Leipzig, president of National Geographic Feature Films.
"Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening
of the American West" tells the story of how Lewis and William Clark
began in 1803 the first overland expedition to the Pacific Ocean. The
three-year journey, across the uncharted North American wilderness,
realized Thomas Jefferson's dream of mapping the unknown West and paved
the way for Westward expansion.
National Geographic, which is coming off the docu hit "March of the
Penguins," optioned rights to "Undaunted Courage" years ago from
Ambrose, who was an explorer-in-residence for the company. Kelly said
the project took time because they couldn't quite figure out how to
condense it for a movie, something that will be unnecessary in a 10-hour
The miniseries kicked into gear after Kelly had dinner with Norton while
the actor was narrating National Geographic's "Strange Days on Planet
Earth" for PBS. When Kelly mentioned "Undaunted Courage," Norton told
Kelly that it was among his favorite books, and that he had just sent
along a copy to his "Fight Club" cohort Pitt. The pieces fell together
quickly after that.
"Lewis and Clark's expedition is as great a story as you could ever hope
to tell, and like so many people, Brad and I have both been drawn to it
for years. We both always agreed that compressing that story into a
feature-length film ruined the spirit of it ... so we sat down and said,
'How can we really do this justice?' " Norton said. "HBO is really the
only company committed to this kind of long-form storytelling, and so
we're ecstatic that they wanted to take it on with us. With National
Geographic in the mix, it's a great team."
"The fun part was going in with both Edward and Brad. It made the
selling process much smoother," Kelly said.
Both Norton and Pitt will be hands-on, particularly in the development
process and in choosing a writer to oversee it.
Pitt is currently focused on the Old West, playing the titular
gunslinger in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
Ford" for Warner Bros. Norton's in the Far East, filming "The Painted
Veil" in China. As a director, Norton helmed the 2000 comedy "Keeping
HBO is percolating several minis on American historical subjects. With
Playtone, HBO is mounting separate minis on the American Revolution,
using the David McCullough books "John Adams" and "1776." Playtone is
also teamed with Spielberg on "The Pacific," a 13-part mini covering the
WWII battle against Japan in the Pacific.