Ridley Scott and Steven Knight Team Up on WWI Series 'Road to Freedom'

Laura Martin
·4-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Esquire

History, we’re told, is written by the victors. But a new TV series about World War II, directed by Ridley Scott and written by Steven Knight, will seek to redress this, as it will tell the real, everyday horrors of war from the true-life perspectives of those who lived through it.

Roads To Freedom – a working title – will be a 10-part series based on British military historian Sir Anthony Beevor’s books about this turbulent and violent period in history. While other films and TV series have focused on the British and American stories and soldiers who took part it it (and have been given the full glossy Hollywood treatment), “the intention is to tell the story using fresh and unique perspectives,” according to Deadline.

The site added: “Roads to Freedom will portray the brutal realities from multiple viewpoints, with characters not only from the US and UK but also from Russia, Germany, France and other countries across the globe. That includes women, and children struggling to survive. The emphasis is on humanity, the characters bound together by one dramatic story.”

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Peaky Blinders creator Knight – who is also penning another military drama about the history of the SAS – will write the series alongside Beevor, whose 13 books about war in the 20th century have sold more than six million copies. Scott – currently knee-deep in Italian haute couture while filming The House of Gucci – will direct the opening episode of the series, and the production is said to be a “deeply personal project” for him, as his father served as an officer in the Royal Engineers, and it will draw on Scott’s own experiences during his childhood in wartime Britain.

This will be the first time Beevor has written for screen, and he told The Times: “Steve will probably do the bulk of it and I will be providing the detail and the historical elements.”

He added he wanted to “show the reality of what it was like for people on so many different sides, not just the fighters. It’s not going to be Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan,” and that they were interested in examining “the paradoxes and the grey areas. The point is to avoid the whole good-and-evil thing, to show you can have people who do very good things and very bad things in the same day.”

The action will fall at a time when half of Europe was liberated, and half was still under Soviet rule, and many of the stories will come from people Beevor previously interviewed for his work. One particularly harrowing event that’s stuck with him is that of an elderly man who explained that as a young boy, he was part of a group of German refugees who were fleeing from East Prussia at the end of the war, but their only route to freedom was to cross a precariously frozen Vistula River on the Polish-Russian Border.

Beevor told The Times: “The Soviets had surrounded them and their only way of getting through to Germany was to cross the ice. They could hear carts falling through the ice and people drowning around them. [The dying man’s] very last words were, ‘I can hear the cracking of the ice.'”

He added that they won’t shy away from the horrors of the war, from all sides, even the Allies: “Everybody will kill prisoners in certain circumstances. Historians in the past have been far too squeamish about describing it from their own side. In many cases they will kill prisoners for almost administrative reasons, ie they're short of the men to guard them. That’s totally inhumane, but warfare is inhumane.”

Casting is still to be confirmed for the epic series, as is the TV channel or streamer attached to the production, but even at this early stage, it looks set to be a much-watch series to expect at some point in 2022.

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