Jeremy Irons Joins Bille August’s ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ Series

Jeremy Irons Joins Bille August’s ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ Series  

by: Hani Kamal El-Din

Oscar winner Jeremy Irons has joined the cast of Palme d’Or-winning director Bille August‘s prestige limited series “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which also stars Sam Claflin.

A sprawling adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, the English-language series is produced by Mediawan’s banner Palomar, the leading Italian company behind “Inspector Montalbano” and “The Name of the Rose,” in collaboration with another Mediawan label, France’s DEMD Productions. The series’ five-month shoot will wrap in Malta in December, after having lensed in France and Italy.

The show underscores Mediawan’s strategy to pursue prestige scripted projects with strong international potential under its €100 million co-development agreement signed earlier this year with private equity film Entourage Ventures.

“The Count of Monte Cristo” marks Irons’ third collaboration with August, who directed him in “Night Train to Lisbon” and “The House of Spirits.” A revered Danish filmmaker, August previously won a pair of Palme d’Or awards for “The Best Intentions” and “Pelle the Conqueror.”

Irons, the celebrated British actor whose credits include the series “Watchmen” as well as “Dead Ringers,” Reversal of Fortune” and “House of Gucci,” portrays the key character of Abbé Faria in “The Count of Monte Cristo.” In the novel, Faria befriends the novel’s hero, Edmond Dantès, played by Claflin, and has a decisive role in carrying out his revenge.

The story follows Edmond, a 19-year-old sailor who is falsely accused of treason and imprisoned without trial in the Château d’If, a grim island fortress off Marseille. After many years of captivity, he finally escapes and, under the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo, plans to take revenge on those who have wrongly accused him.

Speaking to Variety last month from set, August said he was lured by the project because it’s “all about relationships, the complexities of human beings and in that sense it’s very modern and timeless.”

The cast is completed by Ana Girardot, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Blake Ritson, Karla-Simone Spence, Michele Riondino, Lino Guanciale, Gabriella Pession and Nicolas Maupas. The casting process took over a year.

Carlo Degli Esposti, Palomar’s co-founder and veteran producer, said the journey to make the show “started five or six years ago.”

“‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ was my bedside book and it’s been my lifelong dream to adapt it into a film or a series,” he said, adding that the series will have “a modern edge while remaining faithful to the legacy of Alexandre Dumas’ work.”  

Sébastien Pavard at DEMD said the series has universal themes that resonate today because it’s a “story about love and treason, about the revenge of the underdogs against the powerful.”

“The Count of Monte Cristo” was produced in association with Entourage Ventures, as well as RAI Fiction and France Televisions. It’s the first series which is entirely produced within Mediawan and distributed worldwide by Mediawan Rights, in cooperation with CAA (for North America) and with the participation of Entourage.

Addressing the series’ international scope and ambition, Mediawan Pictures’ managing director Elisabeth d’Arvieu said “‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ is precisely the type of endeavor that illustrates why Mediawan was created.”

“The series fits into the company’s DNA because it’s based an iconic European IP that is known around the world and brings together prestigious cast,” continued d’Arvieu. The executive said the series also reflects the caliber of internationally driven shows that Mediawan seeks to deliver under its partnership with Entourage, along with “Zorro,” a series reboot directed by Javier Quintas (“Money Heist,”“Sky Rojo”).

August and Irons are repped by CAA. Sam Claflin is repped by CAA and Independent Talent (in the U.K.) and attorney Doug Stone.

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