More than 40 years after the BBC adapted Leo Tolstoy’s sweeping saga into a TV series starring Anthony Hopkins, the network and the Weinstein Company have produced another take on the epic, with a four-part miniseries set to air on Lifetime, A&E Network, and History.
Of course, turning the tale about five Russian families during the Napoleonic wars into a tidy miniseries sounds impossible. But War and Peace condenses the novel by focusing on three characters: Pierre (Paul Dano), Natasha (Lily James), and Andrei (James Norton). “What [writer Andrew Davies] has done brilliantly is concentrate on their journey,” executive producer Bethan Jones says. “It’s such a huge, heavy book, but the themes about the loves and losses of these young people are timeless.”
The project — which also stars Gillian Anderson and Jim Broadbent — required plenty of preparation. “Six hours is not enough,” admits EP Faith Penhale. “There were moments where you just had to take a deep breath and plan, plan, plan.” Those moments included figuring out how to stage major battle scenes, as well as taking six months to shoot on location, from Russia to Latvia to Lithuania. Says Dano: “I would say that it was pretty epic.”
War and Peace will air on Lifetime, A&E Network, and History in January 2016.
An edited version of this piece runs in Entertainment Weekly issue #1377/1378, on newsstands Friday, August 14.
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