With a budget rumoured to be one of the biggest out of the UK in some time, Fortitude is already drumming up excitement. Distributor Sky Vision, which is selling the show internationally, says presales to around ten territories have already recouped its investment.
For Sky Vision’s paycaster cousin Sky Atlantic, the Simon Donald (Low Winter Sun)-written show is the latest foray into high-end drama. The 12x60mins series, set to launch at the end of this year, is set around a grizzly murder in the seemingly quiet Arctic town of Fortitude, which has never previously experienced a serious crime.
Patrick Spence, founder of Endemol-owned producer Fifty Fathoms, says murder is used as a vehicle “to explore the lives of people that have chosen to live in what its effectively a frontier town”.
Following the death of a British national, Stanley Tucci’s English forensics detective is flown in to investigate alongside the inexperienced local sheriff (newcomer Richard Dormer, pictured), who has never worked a murder case before. It soon becomes clear Tucci is investigating a separate incident, for which Dormer’s character is the prime suspect. “There’s a lovely dance going on between them,” says Spence.
While Sky Atlantic funded the series as part of BSkyB’s push into original UK drama, US premium cabler Starz was initially attached as coproduction partner, but pulled out because of scheduling issues.
Emerging cable channel Pivot has stepped in as copro partner, and now has first-run rights in the States. “Pivot has bought into the show because it perfectly marries with the profile of their channel,” says Spence. “If you look at the films their parent company, Participant, has created they are high-end, authored pieces with a social conscience, and this fits very much within that.”
Spence adds the inclusion of Tucci as part of a cast that also includes Michael Gambon (The Singing Detective), Sophie Gråbøl (The Killing) and Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) was not down to him being American.
“In my experience of coproductions, this idea American channels need American characters is just totally untrue,” he says.
The show: Fortitude
The producers: Fifty Fathoms, Tiger Aspect Productions
The distributor: Sky Vision
The broadcaster: Sky Atlantic (UK), Pivot (US), TV2 (Denmark), Canal+ (France), SVT (Sweden), YLE (Finland), Super Channel (Canada), NRK (Norway), RUV (Iceland), DBS (Israel), OTE (Greece)
The concept: Big-budget mystery thriller in which a mismatched pair of detectives investigate a brutal murder in an idyllic Arctic mining town