From ‘Mad Men’ to ‘Ro­manoffs’

Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tor Matthew Weiner is turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Rus­sia’s roy­als

The Moscow Times - - OUT & ABOUT - By Ali Sar art­sre­porter@ime­

Mad Men” stars Jon Hamm, Elis­a­beth Moss and John Slat­tery are set to fea­ture in a TV drama­ti­za­tion of the lives of the de­scen­dants of Rus­sia’s Romanov dy­nasty as showrun­ner Matthew Weiner re­turns with his long-awaited new project.

Ti­tled sim­ply “Ro­manoffs” (the dou­ble “ff” re­flects the way it was spelled un­til re­cently), the se­rial is be­ing fi­nanced by Ama­zon Stu­dios, which has bud­geted in ex­cess of $50 mil­lion for the am­bi­tious project af­ter a win­ning a bid­ding war. Its part­ner is The We­in­stein Co., an in­de­pen­dent movie com­pany with sig­nif­i­cant for­eign distri­bu­tion reach.

Ever since AMC’s award-win­ning “Mad Men” went off the air two years ago, the na­ture of Weiner’s next project has been the sub­ject of ex­cited spec­u­la­tion in the in­dus­try. Kept tightly un­der wraps un­til re­cently, the series will be an eight-part an­thol­ogy, with shoot­ing tak­ing place around the world.

“I didn’t want to talk about the show be­cause I wanted to get the room opened,” Weiner said in a re­leased state­ment. The “room” is the in­dus­try name given to the writ­ers’ room that is set up for a TV project. Weiner cur­rently has as many as a dozen screen­writ­ers work­ing on the show.

“Each of the eight episodes will tell a stand­alone story with no re­cur­ring plot el­e­ments or ac­tors,” said Weiner.

The di­rec­tor ex­plained that the only com­mon thread is that each episode will tell the story of peo­ple in con­tem­po­rary times who be­lieve they are de­scen­dants of the im­pe­rial fam­ily that ruled Rus­sia from 1613 un­til the Bol­she­viks seized power.

“I love this idea that th­ese char­ac­ters be­lieve them­selves to be de­scen­dants of this au­to­cratic fam­ily,” said Weiner.

Rus­sia’s last tsar Ni­cholas II ab­di­cated the throne dur­ing the revo­lu­tion­ary up­heavals of 1917. In 1918, Ni­cholas was ex­e­cuted by rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, along­side his wife, chil­dren and his en­tourage, who had ac­com­pa­nied the fam­ily into ex­ile in the Urals city of Yeka­ter­in­burg. Many rel­a­tives es­caped to the West.

Var­i­ous groups of de­scen­dants abroad claim to be true suc­ces­sors to the throne. Among the bet­ter known de­scen­dants are the UK’s Prince Philip, King Con­stan­tine II of Greece and Rus­sian Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna. Are they likely to “star” in “Ro­manoffs”?

Weiner is play­ing his cards close to his chest for now, but hinted that the series might fea­ture Grand Duchess Anas­ta­sia, who many in­sist es­caped the fir­ing squad, de­spite foren­sic ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing oth­er­wise.

Weiner said that Anas­ta­sia’s where­abouts had “long served as a mys­tery, with lore sug­gest­ing she’d sur­vived the tragedy and taken on a new iden­tity.”

The showrun­ner says that the series will be con­tem­po­rary, fea­tur­ing “a dif­fer­ent cast, a dif­fer­ent story and a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion.” The cur­rent game plan calls for four episodes to be shot in the U.S. and the other four in soon-to-be-de­ter­mined Euro­pean coun­tries.

Un­like “Mad Men,” “Ro­manoffs” will go di­rectly to stream­ing, which rep­re­sents a revo­lu­tion­ary mar­ket­ing ap­proach for a big-bud­get show – and a huge gam­ble. The project also rep­re­sents the first time this team of writ­ers, in­clud­ing Weiner, will be writ­ing for stream­ing.

For now, the specifics of the cast­ing process re­main vague, but “Mad Men” vet­er­ans Jon Hamm, Elis­a­beth Moss and John Slat­tery are ex­pected to be in­volved in sep­a­rate episodes, adding box of­fice power to the project.

A con­crete date for the stream­ing of “Ro­manoffs” is yet to be an­nounced, but the show is ex­pected to be re­leased in late 2017 or early 2018.

‘Ro­manoffs’ will fo­cus on the lives of sev­eral de­scen­dants of Rus­sia’s ill­fated im­pe­rial fam­ily.

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