May 21, 2015

Tradecraft: Epix Greenlights Olen Steinhauer Spy Series Berlin Station

Premium cable network EPIX, until now a movie channel, has ordered a new 10-episode espionage series called Berlin Station created, written and executive produced by Olen Steinhauer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This is super exciting news! For my money, Steinhauer is one of the very best contemporary spy novelists (along with Charles Cumming and possibly Jason Matthews, if his second novel is as strong as his debut). His Milo Weaver trilogy (beginning with The Tourist) is a surefire hit film franchise waiting to happen. It's kind of insane it's taking Hollywood so long to get that going; right now it's just money sitting on the table for some lucky studio! (Last we heard Covert Affairs' Matt Corman and Chris Ord were adapting for The Bourne Identity helmer Doug Liman to direct, but that was back in 2012.) The idea of Steinhauer penning an entire TV season (as crime novelist Nick Pizzolatto did so successfully on True Detective) is pure catnip for this spy fan. He's also got  very strong collaborators. Eric Roth (writer of The Good Shepherd and Munich) and Michaël Roskam (director of The Drop and Bullhead) will also executive produce, and Roskam will direct the first two episodes. No casting has been announced, but it sure would be great if Roskam recruited his frequent go-to star Matthias Schoenaerts for a role.

According to the trade, the hour-long contemporary espionage drama from Paramount Television "follows a new CIA case officer in Berlin, Daniel Meyer, who is on a secret mission to find who leaked information to now-famous whistleblower Thomas Shaw. As he investigates further, guided by jaded veteran Hector DeJean, he uncovers the threads of a conspiracy that leads back to Washington." A mission to find out who leaked information from the Berlin Station also formed the basis for Len Deighton's masterpiece Berlin Game, but Berlin Station clearly puts a Snowden-era twist on the classic premise.

"Olen is among the most respected espionage voices of our time, and Michaël has a seasoned and distinct command of noir. Together, they make the ideal creative team to collaborate with on this sophisticated and gritty modern day spy thriller," Paramount Television president Amy Powell said in a statement released to the trade. "We also take great pride in partnering with the distinguished and prolific storyteller Eric Roth and the talented team at Epix on developing an inspired original series that is reflective of the network’s commitment to high quality entertainment."

Production is set to begin this fall, and Berlin Station will premiere in fall 2016. This has suddenly shot to the top of my own most anticipated television.

As reported in March, Steinhauer's latest novel, All the Old Knives, is currently in development with The Mark Gordon company, with Neil Burger (Limitless) set to direct and Steinhauer scripting. Promoting that novel, Steinhaur recently picked his own favorite fictional spies for Amazon's Omnivoracious blog, and proves that he has impeccable taste with the likes of David Callan, George Smiley, Neil Burnside and John Drake. Read his reasons why here. He also discussed his reading habits (including a healthy—and quite obvious—admiration for John le Carré) with The New York Times in another worthwhile read.

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