EXCLUSIVE: In what is shaping up to be the first big bidding war over a TV pitch after the double Hollywood strikes, multiple buyers are circling Cape Fear, a drama series re-imagining of the classic Universal thrillers, sources tell Deadline. In their first ever TV collaboration, Oscar winners Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese are executive producing the project, from creator, executive producer and showrunner Nick Antosca (The Act), Amblin Television and UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group.
In what is described as an unconventional take on the IP that draws from John D. MacDonald’s novel and its feature adaptations, the Cape Fear series is a tense, contemporary thriller that examines America’s obsession with true crime in the 21st century. In it, a storm is coming for a pair of married attorneys when an infamous killer from their past gets released after years in prison.
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That is a slight departure from MacDonald’s 1957 book The Executioners and the movies — the 1962 one, directed by J. Lee Thompson from storyboards devised by original director Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Polly Bergen, and the 1991 one, directed by Scorsese and starring his frequent collaborator Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange — where only the husband was a lawyer.
Scorsese and Spielberg, whose company Amblin Entertainment produced the 1991 film, executive produce the series alongside Antosca and Alex Hedlund via Eat The Cat, the company Antosca launched four years ago, and Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey via Amblin Television.
The bidding is still in early stages. Some logical potential destinations would include UCP sibling Peacock, where Antosca recently did A Friend Of the Family; Apple TV+, where Scorsese has a first-look TV deal and just directed Killers Of the Flower Moon; Hulu, home of Antosca/UCP’s The Act and Candy; and Netflix, the platform of Antosca/UCP’s Brand New Cherry Flavor; with other major players, such as HBO, also said to be interested.
There had been a lot of anxiety over what the TV marketplace would look like following the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, with many expecting a contraction. High-profile bidding wars like this one could give the market a jolt, providing writers and producers with confidence that strong packages can find a buyer.
Antosca has reportedly been obsessed with both Cape Fear movies since childhood and approached Universal about adapting the property through UCP where he has been based for the past seven years. He started his career writing for shows based on classic film franchises with Hannibal and Teen Wolf before creating/co-creating a string of series, starting with the 2016 sci-fi horror anthology Channel Zero. It was followed by three true crime limited series, The Act, Candy and A Friend of the Family, along with the book adaptation Brand New Cherry Flavor. He also serves as an executive producer on the USA/Syfy/UCP series Chucky, based on the popular horror movie franchise.
Spielberg and Scorsese, considered two of the greatest directors of their generation, are also longtime friends. The 1991 Cape Fear remake was originally developed by Spielberg, while Scorsese had been working on Schindler’s List. The two greats ended up swapping directing vehicles, with Spielberg remaining involved in Cape Fear through his company Amblin Entertainment.
Just last week, Spielberg held a Q&A with Scorsese following a screening of Killers Of the Flower Moon, calling it Scorsese’s “masterpiece.”
Antosca is repped by WME and Ginsburg Daniels Kallis. Amblin Television is repped by WME. Spielberg is repped by WME for TV as well as Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman. Scorsese is repped WME, LBI Entertainment Hansen, Jacobson, Teller.
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