HBO will partner with The Weinstein Company and the BBC to bring Alexander McCall Smith's international bestselling book series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency to television, it was announced today by Richard Plepler, co-president, HBO and Michael Lombardo, president, Programming Group and West Coast Operations, HBO. Grammy Award winner Jill Scott (Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?) stars in the series, whose two-hour pilot was recently filmed on location in Botswana under the direction of Academy Award winner Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain, The English Patient) from a script by Minghella and Academy Award nominee Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral), who also executive produce. The producers are Academy Award winner Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa) and Timothy Bricknell (Cold Mountain) for Mirage Enterprises, along with Amy Moore for Cinechicks.
In addition to the two-hour film, which will serve as the pilot, HBO has ordered 13 one-hour episodes that will begin filming this summer, with HBO obtaining U.S. and Canadian television and home video rights, and the BBC taking UK television distribution. The Weinstein Company, which controls all other international territories, is planning to take the project to market at MIP in April.
"Alexander McCall Smith's wonderful books have been a sensation around the world for years, and we're thrilled to be teaming up with the BBC and The Weinstein Company (TWC) to adapt these highly entertaining stories for HBO," notes Plepler. "And needless to say, the opportunity to work with the exceptionally gifted Anthony Minghella and Richard Curtis makes this project all the more exciting."
Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, states, "The Weinstein Company is uniquely positioned to develop and create television programming that matches the quality viewers expect when seeing a film in a theater, and having HBO and BBC on board will provide this initiative with the broadest possible audience. We are very excited about this project and so pleased to continue our decade-long collaboration with Mirage on this new series."
Says director/co-writer/executive producer Minghella, "Filming The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana was an amazing adventure. The people were marvelous and the landscape, especially in the northern areas of the country, is extraordinary. Particularly fascinating to me was working and filming in an African country where old and new are currently coexisting, where traditional values have not yet been eroded by the demands and efficiencies and neuroses of the modern. It was a privilege to be working on a film which celebrates what we can learn from Africa, and not what we think we can teach it."
Adds Jane Tranter, BBC Controller, Fiction, "I am looking forward to continuing a strong working relationship with Anthony Minghella, Richard Curtis, Mirage and The Weinstein Company on a new series of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and to partner with HBO on this fabulous project, following the success of Rome, Five Days and Stuart: A Life Backwards."
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is a poignant and passionate book series chronicling the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the eminently sensible and wise proprietor of the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana. Aided by her highly-efficient yet rather peculiar secretary Mma Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe investigates cases, helps people solve problems in their lives, and begins a special friendship with the highly respectable owner of a local garage.
The dynamic and diverse cast for the television pilot includes Grammy Award-winning singer Jill Scott as series heroine Precious Ramotswe, who has become one of the most beloved characters in international contemporary fiction. Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) stars as Precious' quirky secretary Mma Makutsi, and Lucian Msamati stars as Mma Ramotswe's devoted suitor JLB Matekoni. They are joined by David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland, HBO's Five Days and As You Like It), Idris Elba (28 Weeks Later, HBO's The Wire), Colin Salmon (Die Another Day, Match Point) and Tony Award winner John Kani (Final SolutionThe Ghost and the Darkness).