Seven co-commissions TV adaptation of Jules Verne classic

(L-R) Ashley Pharoah, Ahmed Sylla and Simon Crawford Collins.

The Seven Network and three European public broadcasters have commissioned a big budgeted, eight-part re-imagining of the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days.

A co-production between Seven West Media’s London-based Slim Film + Television and Paris-based Federation Entertainment, the series will be filmed around the world, budgeted at about €3 million ($4.7 million) per episode.

A leading British actor yet to be announced will play Phileas Fogg, a rich but solitary gentleman who sets off in 1872 to circumnavigate the world in 80 days to win a £20,000 bet with fellow members of the Reform Club.

French actor Ahmed Sylla will play Passepartout, his valet who accompanies him on the adventure of a lifetime. The lead female role, newspaper reporter Abigail Fix, who joins the travellers in an attempt to make her mark in a man’s world and to emerge from the long shadow of her father, is yet to be announced.

Steve Barron (The Durrells, Treasure Island, Dreamkeeper) will be lead director. Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, The Living & the Dead) heads the writing team which includes Caleb Ranson (Child of Mine, Heartless), Debbie O’Malley (Harlots, Humans), Peter McKenna (Red Rock, The Musketeers), Stephen Greenhorn (Doctor Who, Sunshine on Leith), Claire Downs, Ian Jarvis and Stuart Lane.

There have been numerous film and TV adaptations of the novel, most famously Michael Anderson’s 1956 movie which starred David Niven as Fogg and Cantinflas as Passepartout. Pierce Brosnan and Eric Idle starred in a 1989 miniseries.

An Australian-made animated series based on the book screened on the NBC network in 1972 and Burbank Films produced a 48-minute animated direct-to-video in 1988.

Seven co-commissioned the series developed by Slim’s founder/managing director Simon Crawford Collins with France Télévisions, Germany’s ZDF and Italy’s Rai. That trio formed The Alliance last year to create ambitious scripted series that can compete with big-budgeted originals from streaming companies.

Crawford Collins said: “We wanted to explore an era when the world was open for travel for the very first time and journeys were voyages of discovery in every sense. As we developed the project it felt increasingly pertinent to be reflecting this time of exploration and cultural curiosity, when we are experiencing the rise of isolationism and the closure of national borders.

“While the journey itself will provide the epic adventures, the heart of the story is all about second chances, about people who may have lost themselves.”

Seven West Media acquired a majority stake in Slim in 2016. Its credits include London-set cold war thriller Legacy and The Art of Foley, a comedy series about two Foley artists, both called Roger, who haven’t had a hit in years.

Pascal Breton, Federation Entertainment president, added: “I can think of no better way to launch the Alliance of European Public Broadcasters than with a large-scale international series starring top talents from the UK, France and Germany, and adapted from one of France’s greatest authors of the 20th century.”