Sir Ben Kinglsey plays a scheming and powerful vizier in Spike’s Tutankhamun miniseries
It appeared the gods were against the production crew in Morocco as they battled to film Spike’s first scripted event miniseries in eight years, Tut. Not only did they have to find a new angle on the much-told Tutankhamun story, but they also had to fight off wild weather conditions that included sky-high temperatures in the middle of the desert, to sandstorms and even a freak rainstorm.
Costing US$35 million to produce, Canada’s Muse Entertainment couldn’t afford for any of that to affect the shoot, even when the sandstorm blew away 600 tents, says Michael Prupas.
What had to come across was the scale of production, the Muse president says. “One thing we wanted to draw attention to was how spectacular the sets we built were in design and size. We built a palace courtyard the size of two football fields with 10ft tall columns painted in the colours of Egypt at the time.”
The shoot finished after 75 days on December 12, leaving Muse to edit ahead of a July debut in the US cable on Viacom-owned Spike and an international roll out that began on the Croisette in Cannes. Presale deals with Telecinco in Spain, Tele München Group in Germany and A+E Networks in Latin America are already in the bag.
Prupas says the story of the boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun has always fascinated the general public, as evidenced by the success of museum exhibitions worldwide and the regularity of docs on the subject.
Muse had worked up the project four years ago, but as Prupas notes, “at the time the format had no place in the US”. Two years later, event television was back and Tut ended up with Spike, a channel beginning to focus on rebalancing its male-skew.
Format: 6x60mins/3x120mins historical event miniseries
Positioning: Beat other projects to become Spike’s first miniseries in eight years as it transitions from a purely male-skewed channel to a more balanced proposition
Talent: Sir Ben Kingsley plays Ay, the grand vizier to the young King Tutankhamun, who wields vast power. “When we thought of the cast, Ben Kingsley was first choice for Ay and we were delighted to find out he was interested in the role after reading the script,” says producer Michael Prupas. The award-winning actor was also enticed by the opportunity to return to Morocco, where he had filmed 1995 TNT telemovie Moses.